HRW calls for reduction of Latin America prison population

Human Rights Watch on Feb. 16 called for the reduction of overcrowding to improve poor prison conditions in Latin America following a prison fire in Honduras. The fire occurred two days earlier and killed more than 300 inmates while injuring dozens more. According to HRW, Honduras prisoners suffer overcrowding which leads to poor prison conditions including inadequate nutrition and sanitation, as well as the tragic result earlier this week. Americas Director at HRW, Jose Miguel Vivanco, stated, “The tragic deaths of hundreds of inmates, one of the worst incidents of its kind in the region, are ultimately the result of overcrowding and poor prison conditions, two longstanding problems in Honduras.” According to local press, Honduras has 24 prisons with a total capacity of 8,000. These prisons currently hold 13,000 prisoners, well over capacity.

The US also has prison overcrowding concerns, particularly in California. Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled in Brown v. Plata to uphold an order requiring California to release up to 46,000 prisoners to remedy the state’s overcrowded prisons. California submitted a plan to comply with the court’s order, but the state’s Legislative Analyst’s Office has concluded that California is unlikely to meet the Supreme Court’s two-year deadline. According to the International Center for Prison Studies (PDF), the US has the most prisoners per capita in the world.

From Jurist, Feb. 16. Used with permission.