A 25-year-old mother in Guácimo has become the unwilling central figure in a dispute over the government’s decision to release criminals to reduce prison overcrowding.
The woman was the victim of a robber who broke into the family’s impoverished home early May 28, tied up the husband and raped the young woman at knifepoint.
That the woman had given birth just seven days previous is a factor in the account because now she has to take anti-viral medication to protect against any sexual diseases and she cannot breastfeed her child. She has two other children.
The rape suspect had been convicted of aggravated robbery 15 months earlier but quickly been assigned to what is called a semi-institutional setting. This is like a halfway house, but in the case of the rape suspect there was no room for him there, so he basically was freed.
He is not the only person in that area to have been involved in new crimes after getting out of prison early.
Local prosecutors are keeping count and there are similar crimes elsewhere in the country.
The Ministerio de Justicia y Paz runs the prisons and is involved in freeing up to 6,000 criminals before the termination of their sentences. This has generated a lot of controversy.
However, the ministry has embarked on a public relations campaign. Monday it issued a press release outlining the life of a convicted embezzler who succeeded in creating his own business after being placed in a semi-institution setting. He was required to sleep at the facility once every 15 nights, a period that quickly became 30 nights and then once every two months.
The ministry also is bringing convicted felons around to schools to address students. There was a visit last week by 10 convicts to the Liceo Experimental Bilingüe de Grecia.
The quick release of convicted criminals has generated opposition in the private sector, the judiciary and at the legislature. But the
ministry is working under judicial mandates to reduce the estimated 36 percent overcrowding in the prisons. A suit by the Asociación Nacional de Investigadores en Criminalística has been rejected by a court.
Judicial workers in Pococí responded to the news reports of the abject poverty of the rape victim and her family. They said Monday that prosecutors in Pococí had collected 245,000 colons, about $460, and purchased food and diapers for the woman and her family. Some persons donated clothing.
The news story said that the woman did not have funds to buy milk for her new baby and that the anti-viral medication prevented breast feeding.
The prison situation is compounded by the tradition of keeping individual there for long periods while a supposed investigation takes place. Lawmakers have dodged for more than a decade the need to build more prison facilities. The Sala IV constitutional court rejected a plan proposed by a U.S. firm to build and run a maximum security prison as a concession.