Venezuela faces prison system rife with corruption

Venezuela’s prisons, which are rife with violence, weapons, drugs and criminality, have been placed under a new, tightly regulated regime, says the nation’s leftist government.

The recent move in October 2016 to empty out the General Penitentiary of Venezuela (PGV) in the north-central state of Guarico, which had been one of the nation’s most dangerous prisons, is one of the latest blows the Correctional Services Ministry (MPPSP) has dealt to the old system.

That maximum-security prison, which formerly housed 5,000 inmates and appeared like a normal penitentiary from the outside, contained restaurants, a bakery, a manicure service, pet stores, drugs, motorcycles, a nightclub, a gym, a children’s playground and an arsenal of weapons, all of which flowed inside while guards turned a blind eye.

Like in many of the country’s 96 penitentiaries, the rules were handed down by a “pran,” a convict who controlled food distribution, the sale of drugs and weapons, the renting of the cells and collection of a “causa,” or life tax, from the inmates.

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