Our findings highlight the importance of spatially oriented interventions to contain the ongoing malaria epidemic in Venezuela. This work also provides baseline epidemiological data to assess cross-border malaria dynamics and advocates for innovative control efforts in the Latin American region. In contrast to the permissive conjugal visiting policy extended male prisoners, women were until recently wholly denied such visits.
Although where directly relevant this report touches on other deficiencies in the criminal justice system, it does not purport to be a comprehensive evaluation of the administration of justice in Venezuela. Nonetheless, the reader might usefully keep in mind that the Venezuelan prison system as described here is simply one element of a larger whole. The decisions of, among others, Venezuela’s police, judges, public defenders, and prosecutors also directly affect the lives of persons incarcerated in Venezuela’s prisons. Moreover, the budgeting process does not involve which of the following activities? many of the problems described in this report physical abuse, impunity, corruption, an overburdened system are not limited to the prisons but afflict other parts of the justice system as well. Thus, while it is imperative that the prison system be reformed, any serious effort to improve the situation of Venezuelan prisoners will eventually have to reach beyond prisons to remedy some of the country’s larger problems. Archaeologists estimate that the first people arrived in present-day Venezuela around 14,000 b.c.
Crowded into a system filled far beyond its capacity, inmates routinely sleep two or three to a bed, or even on passageway floors, wherever they find space. Most prison complexes are physically deteriorated, although the Ministry of Justice began remodelling six facilities in 1995. Forced to provide their own mattresses, bedding, clothing, and, to a lesser extent, food, prisoners are dependent on the support of their families or others outside the prison. These deficiencies violate Venezuelan law, which requires that prisoners be provided basic medical care, and contravene international standards calling for daily medical supervision of prisoners who are sick or who complain of illnesses.
The meal we saw at El Rodeo was a thin stew of meat and vegetables over spaghetti. A few prisoners told us that they thought the main meal of the day was usually good, although breakfast and dinner were insufficient and not well balanced. One also stated that the inmates had eaten particularly well during the week of our visit. A sizeable minority of incarcerated women are able to work and thus to accrue the benefits of sentence reduction under the “two for one” law.
In these cases, contact visits but not conjugal visits are generally allowed every fifteen days. Lucy Gómez, “Los presos de Catia serán trasladados en enero a anexos en Yare y El Rodeo,” El Universal, November 3, 1996. Given the size of its prison population, Venezuela has relatively few prisons.
Overcrowded, understaffed, physically deteriorated, and rife with weapons, drugs and gangs, Venezuela’s prisons have a deservedly poor reputation. The prisons’ appalling violence, moreover, emerges from a host of other chronic problems. Indeed, prisoners were clearly less reticent in recounting official abuses than they were in describing inmate-on-inmate abuse. We also met with several ministers, including the minister of justice, the minister of defense, and the president’s chief of staff (Ministro de la Secretaría de la Presidencia); the state prosecutor; and the U.S. ambassador to Venezuela. But the crime epidemic, leading to public pressure to incarcerate people, is the issue most directly relevant to the prison crisis.
The INOF, in particular, was quite roomy; with a design capacity of 240, it held substantially fewer women than that when we visited. The Sabaneta and Tocuyito annexes also provided ample space for its inhabitants. Most women prisoners are in their twenties and thirties, but we met a few eighteen-year-olds, as well as a sixty-eight-year-old woman held on drug charges at the La Planta women’s annex. One wing at the Tocorón women’s annex holds three women known as the “grandmothers,” who are nearly sixty.
The buildings stretch out along the beachfront, which seems to go on forever. Reached by boat, this is one of Venezuela’s most beautiful beaches, with shallow turquoise waters, perfect for swimming and snorkeling. Flights over the falls depart from many towns and cities and can be arranged from various places, including Caracas, Ciudad Bolívar, Santa Elena, or Isla Margarita, as well as other major cities, although usually with a connecting flight.