Argentina: Prisoners of Buenos Aires Province before a wall of arbitrariness
One of our correspondents, the International Prisons Observatory [“Observatorio Internacional de Prisiones,” or OIP] - Argentina section, recently addressed a letter to the Procurator of Buenos Aires Province to alert him to a series of disturbing observations made of prisons conditions in this province.
The OIP could verify that, to avoid answering the calls, officials pick up the phone and hang it up again.
Five issues of concern
a) The lack of access to adequate medical care results in a significant number of corrective habeas corpus. These legal proceedings allow prisoners merely to obtain the primary medical care that the Buenos Aires Prison Service [“Servicio Penitenciario Bonaerense,” or SPB] should provide in the first place. For the respect of this fundamental right, relatives of the prisoners have to carry out numerous bureaucratic procedures before courts, despite being third parties to the conflict.
b) The outburst of sentence enforcement courts and the lack of personnel capable of adequately monitoring the prison population of the province. This results in a broad autonomy and discretion of the SPB regarding access to rights of prisoners, as the supervisory body does not have enough resources at its disposal to fulfill its mission.
The OIP also reports that the judicial authorities of the province have built a wall that makes communication and the exercise of rights almost impossible. For example, it is pointed out in the case of the sentence enforcement judge of San Martín, who denies institutional mail to human rights organizations such as the OIP, requesting any matter at hand to be sent by fax, an almost obsolete device.
In addition, the dispatch can take a week due to telephone overcrowding. In legal aid offices, the OIP found that to avoid answering calls, officials pick up the phone and hang it up again.
c) Arbitrary and excessive transfers between penitentiaries bring about the inability to meet requirements to access early or conditional release. According to the OIP, this practice is “an insidious form of punishment and also objectification of the subject, treated as a thing and not as a person.”
d) The abusive use of preventive detention and the slowness of justice.
e) The lengthening of convictions and the increase in penalties, which are leading penitentiary systems of the province to collapse. According to the OIP, “more and more individuals enter the penal system, and fewer and fewer come out.”
The OIP submitted an interim relief application to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights in order to protect the rights to adequate treatment and nutrition, as well as the access to mental health, education and visits from relatives that allow maintaining connection with the world outside the walls.
Originally published in Spanish on December 20, 2017.
The International Prison Observatory - Argentina Section (IOP), has been Prison Insider’s correspondent since March 2016. See the website for more information.
For more information
To know more about the crisis affecting the Buenos Aires Prison Service (SPB), check out the letter that the OIP has addressed to the deputy of this province.
To learn more about Argentina’s prisons, visit the country profile written by the OIP, Argentinian correspondent for Prison Insider.