Contributor(s)Rolando Arbusún Rodríguez / Traslator: Briane Laruy / Reviewer: Ako Allan Agbor

Contact with the outside world

The frequency of family visits varies depending on the unit, between two and three days a week, from 8 am to 4 pm, except in Unit 3 and Ward 12 of Unit 4.

In Unit 3, visits are regulated by sector and take place once a week only. In Ward 12, the prison authorities organize visits once every 15 days and without any physical contact between the detainee and visitor.

Normally, visits take place in lounges and open spaces provided for this purpose.

In Unit 4, visitors denounce a violent atmosphere that coincides with the high number of assaults and homicides reported in this Unit.

The units are equipped with spaces for conjugal visits but not for meetings between parents and children.

The National Transfers Council of the INR is the authority that decides on requests for transfers of units for reasons of family reunion. The decision usually depends on the existence of positive reports about the prisoner’s conduct and the quota of available places in the destination unit.

Phone tapping is not allowed.

Prisoners have access to telephone booths in their areas. The main problem is that the number of cabins available is very insufficient compared to the number of prisoners.

The national post service provides correspondence by post. Censorship of correspondence is not allowed; nevertheless, this mean of communication is not used much.

The possession of mobile phones is permitted in at least four units and, as of date, have not been the cause of any crimes.

Sentence remission and early and conditional release are provided for in the Penal Code. However, some modifications make their access more restricted for repeat offenders and perpetrators of certain types of violent crimes.

Law provides the use of non-custodial measures, but their use is much lower than that of incarceration.

The National Rehabilitation Institute (INR) has a department responsible for the management of early releases: the Office of Supervision of Supervised Liberty (OSLA). However, the logistical and human resources allocated to it are insufficient and the number of cases examined is very limited. In 2016, this office received 600 people, 270 for community service and 350 for house arrests.

According to the 2016 Report of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Penitentiary Affairs: “[…] the OSLA lacks the technical staff to provide support from a global perspective. Its work is therefore mainly related to the questions of the execution of the measures, strengthening the contacts with the institutions and organizations opening their doors for the realization of works of general interest, and to carry out the necessary interviews to constitute the reports that must be sent to the judges […]1.

  1. Parliamentary Commissioner for Penitentiary Affairs, “Annual Report - 2016”, p. 56. 

Anyone who cannot afford the services of a private lawyer has the right to be represented by a public defender.

The National Public Defence Service has 215 public defenders nationwide, 60 of who are specialized in criminal matters and defend 85% of those incarcerated. This means that every public defender has to deal, on average, with 156 people incarcerated. In Montevideo, 26 public defenders specializing in criminal law intervene in the defence of the accused during the trial and in the subsequent execution of the judgment.
In 2016, these 26 lawyers accepted 7,715 new cases, received 13,400 people, submitted 9,765 findings and visited 2,601 detainees. According to the Parliamentary Commissioner for Penitentiary Affairs, “He figures clearly indicate that the service, beyond the efforts of most of its members, is far from responding to the request of all the people it needs to attend to.1

One of the consequences of this situation is the lack of regularity of lawyers’ visits to their clients, a fact denounced on numerous occasions in the reports of the Parliamentary Commissioner for Prison Affairs.

If the judge in charge of the case requests the presence of the detainee, the latter is taken to the hearings and if he/she refuses to go there, this is considered a second-degree disciplinary offense punishable by penalties.

All units have a Legal Office that is responsible for keeping the records, appeals and dispositions in order. However, inmates often complain that they do not receive the information requested from this Office, particularly when it comes to complaints. This is usually due to the desire to safeguard prison officials.

  1. Parliamentary Commissioner for Penitentiary Affairs, “Annual Report - 2016”, p. 61 

Uruguay signed and ratified the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture in December 2005.

The National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture (MNP) is established and is part of the National Institute of Human Rights and the Office of the Ombudsman (Law No. 18.446 / 2008, as amended by Law No. 18.806 / 2011). The members of this staff are recruited by open competition.

The MNP carries out systematic visits to the penitentiary units and coordinates its actions with the Parliamentary Commissioner for Prison Affairs. These visits are transcribed in reports of different kinds, all of a public nature and free access.