Argentina: managing uncertainty
The Argentinian reaction to the sanitary crisis in prison and its consequences
In Argentina, the COVID-19 crisis came in addition to a context of overcrowding and other epidemic diseases, such as tuberculosis. In the beginning of the crisis, the Supreme Court (Corte Suprema de Justicia de la Nación) issued an Order that put into effect the recommendations made by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the United Nations (UN) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) about how prisoners should be treated. The Order instructed different prison administrations (Provincial and Federal) to implement the same set of measures.
Strict restrictions were put in place by the public authorities, amongst which the suspension of visits and day-releases. In the Province of Buenos Aires, the use of cell phones was officially authorised to alleviate the suspension of visits. At the Federal level, a videocall system was put in place to facilitate the communication with family members. Argentinian prisons were not spared by the contagion of the disease. The restrictions had a major impact on the daily lives of prisoners and their access to basic needs, despite some innovative measures. Prisoners, their families and civil society organisations regretted what they perceived as a lack of concrete measures. This led to an increase in tensions and to numerous protests in the country’s prisons.
Prison Insider and the Centre for Studies on Justice and Society (Chile) propose an analysis of the first year of the pandemic in prisons in eleven countries. Argentina is one of them.