Security management in the Prison System - a challenge to be aware of

18 May, 2012 - The challenges on the management of prison systems have increased. More and more, organized crime takes advantage of new technologies and benefits brought by globalization to coordinate and lead their businesses from the most furthermore corners. It is increasingly common, in Latin America, to find out that imprisoned organized crime leaders are still giving orders, coordinating crimes, controlling actions or organizing escapes and riots from their own cells. Nor it is difficult to hear that prison inmates escaped through prison´s main door.

The challenge of controlling inmates increases with the double responsibility or the prison system, which has to enforce the penalty of restriction of freedom at the same time it must ensure, under any circumstances, reintegration and the respect for human dignity of all prisoners.

Aiming at identifying protocols, norms and best practices to improve prison settings management in Uruguay, UNODC and the Ministry of Interior, with the support of the Spanish International Cooperation Agency, organized the international seminar "Human Rights, People Deprived of Freedom and Security Management of the Prision System in Uruguay".

On 14 and 15 May, government mechanisms responsible for implementing maximum security prison policies, representatives from Judiciary and Security national institutions, UNODC officers, and international experts discussed matters like international human rights norms, protocols for classification and separation of inmates, internal prison settings security measures, architectural aspects for the construction or modification of prisons, and protocols regarding the mental and physical health of prisoners and rehabilitation and social reinsertion mechanisms.

The seminar took place in a very delicate moment for the prison system in Uruguay, which since late April has been facing riots in prison settings. "Rehabilitation centers in Uruguay have lived a crisis for a long time that stems from the resistance to the changes we are making in the prison system. This resistance comes from prisoners and from some members of the prison system to some degree involved with corruption. In this scenario we must not react by breaking the desires for change. On the contrary, we must multiply them", said Eduardo Bonomi, ministry of Interior of Uruguay.

The importance of improving the physical conditions of prisons, the services provided, and the recognition of the importance of the work of prison agents where highlighted during the event."Prison officials have a vital role and need to be aware of it, and mainly need to be able to rely on adequate conditions and tools to do their work. Training, recognition, and the appreciation of these professionals is a key to ensure an efficient and effective management of the system. Prisons should be administered within an ethical context which respects everyone involved: inmates, prison staff, and visitors - usually prisoners family", said Bo Mathiasen, UNODC regional representative.

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