Government suspends early release of prison inmates

The government has reversed itself and has suspended plans to ease prison crowding with a continued release of inmates.

The announcement came Monday afternoon after yet another police action involving someone who had been released from prison early.

At nearly the same time, Casa Presidencial released a statement that basically said that the plan was not the idea of the current administration in the first place.

Technically, the decision came from the Instituto Nacional de Criminología, which had been supervising the releases. More than 6,000 releases had been planned.

The institute did not mention a public outcry about the proposal. Instead, it said that overcrowding at the Gerardo Rodríguez Echeverría prison had been reduced significantly. The prison is part of the complex in San Rafael de Alajuela. A judge had ordered the reduction of inmates.

The decision came after at least two men tried to stick up a delivery vehicle in Purral de Guadalupe. Fuerza Pública officers tracked two of the men to a home after the 9:30 a.m. robbery. The police tactical squad eventually entered the building and detained the men. A revolver was confiscated, they said.

One of the men appears to have been a beneficiary of the early release program after a conviction for another robbery.  There has been a spate of such cases.

The early release program transferred inmates from prisons to what is called a semi-institutional setting. Typically the inmates have to sleep in the new facility a couple of times a week, depending on their individual case.

The prisons are under the control of the  Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, which said Monday that the early release program is not new, that it dates from 1970 and that the current regulations date from 2007. A statement decried what it called incorrect information in the media.

From 2000 to 2013 15,503 persons have benefited from the system and entered a semi-institutional setting, said the ministry.Some lawmakers also were unhappy about the project.

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