Criminologist expected to intensify protest against prisoner release

Criminologists are expected to assert today that the justice ministry is violating the penal code with its plan to release prisoners to reduce overcrowding at correctional institutions.

The Colegio de Profesionales en CriminologĂ­a de Costa Rica said Thursday that it would explore in a press conference today article 64 of the penal code. That article established the legal requirements for releasing prisoners.

The article says in part that a judge has to approve conditional liberty and that the prisoner must have completed half of the sentence dictated by a court.

The plan by the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz to release more than 300 prisoners might not be consistent with the criminal code.

The criminologists are expected to ask that the decree to release the prisoners be voided because it is contrary to the law.

The Judicial Investigating Organization has been quick to say that none of the agents there has been involved publicly in the campaign by the criminology professional group to prevent the release of the prisoners.

Members of the colegio have staged public protests. There are more than 1,500 members, and many are lawyers. The central government says the releases are needed to cut down on the prison population because the overcrowding and poor conditions are human rights violations.

The 300 or so prisoners are just a start. Government officials in the past have talked about releasing as many as 5,000 convicts before the expiration of their sentences.

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