New housing for prison inmates suffers a major setback

Any expat who ends up in the nation’s prison system is quick to wish he or she had not. The facilities are seriously overcrowded and decrepit in some places.

Efforts to create more space for prisoners suffered a setback Wednesday when the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz announced that a contractor had walked off a job at the La Reforma prison complex in Alajuela.

The contractor is Constructora Mavacón S. A., and the firm was supposed to build 400 spaces for prisoners for 1.7 million colons or about $3.4 million.

Employees said they had not been paid for 15 to 22 days, and the ministry said that inspectors from the Caja Costarricense del Seguro Social, the Ministerio de Trabajo y Seguridad Social, the Colegio Federado de Ingenieros y Arquitectos and the Instituto Nacional de Seguros were at the site.

The ministry said that the job was awarded in October and was supposed to be completed this month. Officials estimated that the job was about 50 to 60 percent completed and that the firm had received about 40 percent of the contract amount.

The ministry said it would approach Mavacón about the job and noted that the firm faces fines for failing to complete the job on time.

Meanwhile, a California professor visited the San Sebastian lockups in San José Tuesday in his capacity as an inspector for the Interamerican Human Rights Commission.

Costa Rican officials sought such an inspection a year and a half ago.

The summary of the visit could be used in seeking more funds internationally.

The visitor was James Cavallaro, a lawyer who is a professor at Stanford University. The facility holds 1,254 persons, and many of them are there before trial as preventative detention or after trial but before the sentence is confirmed.

Costa Rica has been struggling to relieve the overcrowding of the prison facilities.

There is no activity at this La Reforma work site

There is no activity at this La Reforma work site

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