Consider victims, magistrate says of ankle bracelets

If the country’s prison system is going to set free individuals on the strength of an ankle bracelet, the safety of victims should be considered, too.

That’s the thrust of a summary by a Corte Suprema magistrate after studying a proposal that is being consider by lawmakers.

The law would allow suspects and convicts to wear an interactive bracelet and basically remain under house arrest. That was the view expressed by Zarela Villanueva  of the Sala Secunda of the court. This is the criminal section. The magistrate has been elevated temporarily to the presidency of the entire high court because of the death of Luis Paulino Mora.

The summary, released Monday by the Poder Judicial, said that the proposed law emphasizes the penal aspects but does little to protect victims.

In addition, the law does not require victims to be notified if a presumed aggressor is about to be freed with an ankle bracelet, the summary said.

The magistrate mainly discussed domestic violence cases and said that there are about 48,000 requests for protective measures each year. In addition in just 2011 there were 5,000 reports of violations of protective measures. Prosecutors are overwhelmed by all these cases.

She suggested changes in the proposed law that would allow victims to participate in the process and receive information about the judicial process, including the possibility of an interactive bracelet.

Costa Rican prisons are more than full and lawmakers are looking for inexpensive ways to solve the problem.

In 2002 the Sala IV constitutional court ruled against a plan by a U.S. company to build and run a modern maximum security prison as a concession.

The existing prisons vary widely in security. At some of the minimum security prisons the inmates are contained only by a plastic tape that shows the boundaries.

Others have questioned the ability of the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz to monitor thousands of persons who might be freed wearing ankle bracelets.

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