Punishment Before Trial

Prison Conditions in Venezuela

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Overcrowded, understaffed, physically deteriorated, and rife with weapons, drugs, and gangs, Venezuela’s prisons have a deservedly poor reputation. Although their notoriety largely springs from a few brutal outbursts of violence—including the 1994 massacre of more than one hundred inmates at Sabaneta prison and the 1996 killing of twenty-five inmates at La Planta prison—these are simply the most newsworthy among countless violent incidents. The prisons’ appalling violence, moreover, is one symptom of a host of other chronic problems. The overcrowding is particularly abusive. Some facilities contain several times the number of prisoners they were built to house, with inmates routinely sleeping two or three to a bed, or even on passageway floors. And severely compounding the crisis is the fact that nearly three-quarters of Venezuelan prisoners have not been convicted of any crime. Human Rights Watch/Americas urges the Venezuelan authorities to bring its treatment of prisoners into line with international human rights standards. Besides describing the prisons’ conditions, this report includes detailed recommendations for remedying them.

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