Projects for the Implementation of the Prison Reform in Panama
UNODC ROPAN supports the development of a comprehensive prison reform strategy that addresses prison overcrowding, the large population of people in custody, the lack of staff training, and human rights violations.
Through this initiative, and in an effort to support the Government of Panama in the implementation of reforms, UNODC ROPAN offers assistance and direct technical expertise, as well as financial support, to the Ministry of Government and the Prison System of Panama.
The project "Supporting the prison reform in Panama", with the financial support of the United States Embassy, was implemented based on a programmatic approach divided into two phases. The first phase lasted 20 months (October 2010 - July 2012) which contributed to the design and implementation of a strategic plan for prison reform and strengthening the capacity of staff for better management of the prison system in accordance with the applicable international standards. The second phase (August 2012 - September 2014), complemented these objectives into more specific areas (prison academy, women prisoners, as well as educational, productive and labor projects) that helped to ensure a sustainable and lasting reform of the criminal justice system.
In this context, a roadmap for the implementation of prison reform in Panama (also known as the strategic plan "For a Second Chance") was developed.
Furthermore, recognizing the importance of the role of prison staff to ensure the daily safety and management of prisons, the Government of Panama has diligently promoted simultaneous and continuous training for the staff of the Prison System. Staff members have become active participants in knowledge networks and peer support forums on prison reform. In an effort to consolidate and strengthen the capacity building of personnel within the prison system, the Panamanian Government reopened the Prison Training Academy in January 2011, leading to the Academy becoming instrumental in the process of reforming the Panamanian prison system.
The Prison Academy boasts a set of rules, an updated curriculum, equipment, furniture and literature that allow for the training of 260 students, who are taught by highly motivated teachers.
Since its opening, 600 new prison custodians were trained, having previously met the entry requirements and test final competition. This staff was assigned to various prisons in the country to replace national police officers who previously covered internal security. 2,400 academic interventions were performed during the management of the Penitentiary Training Academy, in training and updating on prison material in the various fields.
Six consultations were conducted with objective of assessing priority areas for the Ministry of Government, such as health, alternatives to incarceration, the design of an organizational structure, an operational plan and a curriculum for the Prison Training Academy, and the establishment of a data Management System.
As an unprecedented event in the region, and with the support of UNODC, the First Annex Program at the University of Panama was developed in the Women's Rehabilitation Centre offering three technical careers.
Further Activites include:
- The public campaign titled "Donate a Book to Jail" was launched, donating 8000 books and enabling libraries to be opened in prison centres of Las Tablas, La Joyita and La Joya, the latter with a study hall and computer training;
- With the financial and technical support of UNODC, new productive projects such as Hydroponics and Tailoring (CEFERE and La Joya) have been created. Six new classrooms for computer training were also equipped in several prison centers: El Renacer, La Joya, CEFERE, La Chorrera, Las Tablas and Bocas del Toro;
- A care program for women prisoners was designed, and in September 2012 an inter-agency working group was settled down with the aim of creating a space for participation and joint work between the institutions involved with the problematic of women in context of confinement. This working group aims to improve the conditions of detention of these women in line with national and international regulations;
- It was developed and institutionalized the public campaign titled "Stop corruption", through which is promoted the denouncement of corruption cases to the telephone line "311". A Code of Ethics for prison officers was designed and adopted;
- Several informative materials were developed, published and distributed to the prison population. Fact banners on the requirements and procedures of various topics such as probation, disciplinary procedures, rights and obligations, and commutation of sentences, were placed in common areas of every prison center around the country.
- Online self-training courses based on two handbooks of UNODC were designed:
Furthermore,Upon request of the Prison System of Panama, UNODC has prepared several Technical Consultative Opinions on the following issues: corruption in prisons, use of everyday clothing for the prison population, right of participation of the prison population, challenges faced by foreign prisoners, commutation of sentence, intimate visits, among others.
With the support of UNODC, the website of the Prison System of Panama was improved.
Implementing the Prison Reform In Panama
In response to the commitment and willingness of the Panamanian State, UNODC has been implementing the project 'Supporting prison reform in Panama' since October 2010. The project's main objectives are: to develop a comprehensive reform strategy aimed at the humanization of prison conditions and the professionalization of prison staff; and to contribute to the achievement of Panama's goal of having a modern, effective and efficient prison service in line with international standards.
This video highlights the achievements made by the Panamanian Prison System through the technical and financial support of this project implemented by the UNODC Regional Office for Central America and the Caribbean in Panama (UNODC ROPAN).
The SECOPA project, aligned with the main pillars of the Strategy for Citizen Security of the Government of Panama, and funded by the European Union, aims to strengthen the security and justice sectors in Panama, through close collaboration and cooperation between, UNODC, the Inter-American Development Bank (IABD), and the Government of Panama.
SECOPA will be implemented by both UNODC and the IADB. UNODC's components of the project include:
(I) Strengthening statistics and the quality of analysis through the creation of a Center of Excellence in Analysis of Trends in Drugs and Crime
(II) Establishment of a Technological Platform for Information and Intelligence Sharing
(III) Strengthening the Capacity of Public Ministry
(IV) Prison Reform
Prison Reform Component:
The objective of the prison reform component is the qualitative improvement of the Prison Training Academy curriculum, as well as the strengthening and modernization of the General Directorate of the Prison System of the Ministry of Government of Panama, in order to compliance with their institutional goals and to enhance the social reintegration addressed to adult people deprived of liberty.
Strategic areas of intervention:
The component aims to strengthen the penal institutional framework as a fundamental premise for the achievement of the objectives of the prison system in line with international standards in human rights and criminal justice, considering two strategic areas of intervention:
( 1) Strengthen the institutional framework of the Directorate General of Prisons to effectively and efficiently implement policies aimed at the rehabilitation of people who have committed a criminal offense.
(2) Strengthen the Prison Training Academy to ensure specialized training for staff members serving in different areas of the prison system.
- Strategic plan for the Directorate General of Prisons (DGSP, for its acronym in Spanish) was delivered and validated by the national authorities.
- Draft bill for the establishment of a prison officer career was delivered and validated by the national authorities, and is in the process of being submitted to the Legislative Assembly.
- Institutional and functional diagnosis of the DGSP and its restructuring proposal was delivered and validated by the national authorities.
- Diagnosis of the existing reintegration programs was delivered and validated by the national authorities.
- Proposal for the organizational and functional restructuring of the Prison Training Academy (AFP, for its acronym in Spanish) was delivered and validated by the national authorities.
- The project funded a study visit to El Salvador to exchange best practices in the implementation of the Correctional Information System of that country (SIPE, according to its acronym in Spanish), resulting in an agreement between the two countries on the transfer of the system to the Prison System of Panama, as a donation. The implementation and startup of the Information System in Panama (SIP) is in process.
- The Prison Academy increased its training capacity and management skills of prison staff, which is reflected in the following figures (last update: 30 September 2015):
- The AFP has trained 1238 officers since the beginning of the project.
- 2014: 353 in the first semester and 339 in the second semester.
- 2015: 245 in the first semester and 301 in the second semester
- From this total, 508 officers have been trained through the direct intervention of SECOPA.
- Development of the e-learning platform within the prison system web page, and in process of being activated.
- Technical assistance in the preparation of the campaign "Unite to end violence against women in custody". For more information of the campaign, please click here.