Paraguay seeks to develop a plan to assist prisoners

Asuncion, 15 January 2014 - The troubling situation of prisons in Paraguay was the issue that led a multisectoral group to meet for the first time last week, in order to discuss and exchange ideas that can guide the development of a National Plan of integral assistance to prisoners.

A second meeting will be held today, in which the first proposal prepared by the experts will be analyzed to reach a common plan, which would be a proposed solution to the problems that affect prisoners. The goal is to conquer, through medical and psychological treatment, the effective rehabilitation and social reintegration of prisoners.

According to the latest available data, there are 9,400 prisoners in Paraguay, distributed in 17 prisons in poor conditions due to overcrowding, lack of medical care and psychological treatment that, in addition to the high consumption of drugs and alcohol, are factors that influence the difficult task of rehabilitation and reintegration into society.

The first workshop was held on 6 January at the Center for Addictions, with support from the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), as part of its Strengthening the Rule of Law, Security and Justice Programme in Paraguay. The event brought together experts in different disciplines from the Ministries of Justice and Human Rights, Public Health, the Federal Supreme Court and the non-governmental organization Altervida.

The first meeting served as an exchange of experiences, with each participant exposing the need to form working groups between the various sectors of the government and civil society organizations.

"We need teamwork that shares information", said the Center for Addictions' Mental Health Specialist Mari Olmedo. She also emphasized the need for a national plan to systematize information and help prisoners, who are currently considered "human remains".

The General Director of the Ministry of Justice and Human Rights, Osvaldo Benítez, noted that the prison system in Paraguay has collapsed and there is no plan for the rehabilitation and social reintegration of inmates.

One example of this is Tacumbú, a prison in Asunción, which has a capacity to hold 2,500 prisoners. Currently the site houses 3,700 people, including prisoners who have already been convicted and those who are still awaiting trial, while others are left on their own, without the support of a public defender.

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