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Uruguay, Colombia put inmates to work to fight organized crime

In contrast to most of the region, Uruguay’s government and at least one prison in Colombia are taking steps to provide more opportunities and rehabilitation to their prison populations in an effort to reduce recidivism rates and combat organized crime.

Uruguay’s National Office for Former Convicts (Dirección Nacional de Apoyo al Liberado – DINALI), has agreed to create a foundation that will help former inmates find new jobs. The foundation will hire ex-convicts and put them to work in several projects, including dog grooming, car washes and the maintenance of police vehicles.

Meanwhile in Colombia, a minimum security agricultural penal colony located in the department of Meta has turned into a model for other prisons across the country. Stretching over 4,200 hectares, the Acacías prison provides its 1,273 inmates the opportunity to take part in several work and education programs. The strategy seems to have paid off. No one has escaped during the past 15 years, and the penitentiary’s recidivism rates are the lowest in the country: only 2 percent of the former inmates have been captured for committing another crime once out of prison.

While both Uruguayan and Colombian authorities believe that the challenges to facilitate the inmates’ reintegration into civilian life remain high, the programs can turn into a vital mechanism to reduce the influence of organized crime in the two countries.

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