Abinader: RD$1.6 billion to finish the jail; Santana: jail needs just RD$400 million to open

Roberto Santana / Hoy

Penitentiary system expert Roberto Santana disputes President Abinader’s statement that RD$1.6 billion are needed to finish Las Parras jail. President Luis Abinader responded to criticism of negligence in the handling of the La Victoria jail issues and announced a follow-up committee for the jail issues. The newly appointed woman-in-charge Police colonel at the La Victoria Jail has been removed, after less than a month on the job. A new jail director, Colonel Roberto Nivar has been named.

The actions follow a major fire in an area of cells at the jail that resulted in the death of at least 13 inmates, many of whom have yet to be identified. A second blaze at a store inside the jail happened in less than 48 hours.

Once the first fire at La Victoria occurred, Abinader justified the not opening of the RD$7 billion Las Parras jail in Guerra on grounds that RD$1.6 billion were needed to fix the jail as it was built on a swamp area.

Roberto Santana, the former rector of the state university turned Latin American expert on prison systems, has been alerting the Abinader government of actions to take to improve the penitentiary system. Someone seems to not have been listening or has decided not to act on the recommendations.

After the unexplained fire last week, the highly respected Santana was again interviewed, this time by El Despertador on Channel 9. Santana disputed the statement that RD$1.6 billion is needed to open the jail. He said that with the change of government in August 2020 he worked as an honorary advisor and supervised specialists that ascertained that RD$288 million was needed to correct situations at the Las Parras jail where the La Victoria inmates would be relocated. In addition, RD$72 million was needed to fund the access roads.

Santana said the central government provided the RD$288 million to the Attorney General Office, but the Attorney General Office has sat on the issue, asking to be removed from responsibility for the jails. Meanwhile, prosecutors have advanced on the corruption charges against former Attorney General Jean Alain Rodriguez, who built the jail before leaving office. Prosecutors have produced evidence of major corruption in the construction of the jail. Santana has criticized that the Ministry of Public Works never carried out the recommendation to build the access roads to the Las Parras jail.

Santana says he has no idea where the RD$1.6 billion President Luis Abinader says is needed to open the jail will be used. He understands the RD$288 million + RD$72 million for the roads budget would need to be increased for inflation and disuse costs, but he disputes the RD$1.6 billion budget advocated for by the President. He says RD$300 million cannot become RD$1.6 billion. He is enraged that the government already spent RD$7 billion on the jail and now wants to add RD$1.6 billion.

Santana calls the lack of action by the Attorney General Office and the Ministry of Public Works “unacceptable incompetence.” He says the delays were also caused when the Attorney General Office asked to be removed from dealing with the prisons, but did not send to the government the architectural plans of what had to be done nor the contracts with the contractors for completion. And the Ministry of Public Works did not act on the construction of the access roads.

In 2022, in an interview with Mariasela Alvarez for Esta Noche con Mariasela, Santana had warned the mafias that controlled and profitted from the La Victoria Jail had turned the jail into a “time bomb.” The fires in March are evidence that those who control the jail are still in control, he said.

Santana’s recommendations would bring the jails to international standards. He recommended dividing up the jail into eight separate units with their separate entrances. In the RD$288 million budget for his recommended improvements is the installation of electricity, gas, water and changes so that the toilets are not located in the cells in front of the beds, for instance. He also said perimeter fences need to be completed. He called the jails “a monument to irresponsibility that has to be corrected.”

Santana said on El Despertador: “The government, in my vision, should have had the initiative to pressure the corresponding areas of the attorney general office to deliver the plans and the contracts.”

He said insiders in the attorney general office have caused the delays to damage the image of the Abinader government.

He questions how long the government will wait for the bomb to explode again. He observed how 48 hours after the fire that killed at least 13, another fire happened in a colmado in the jail, both supposedly because of electricity short circuits.

“Where there is business, complicity of the police staff, what credibility can the information coming from the jail have,” asked Santana.

He said that the corrupt police at the jail are sticking their tongues at the Attorney General Office saying they are in control and with their actions they are proving this is so.

Santana urged the government to accept the recommendations he made three years ago to modify the jail and turn it into eight separate prisons, with eight separate accesses.

He recalled that before the jail was built at Las Parras he had recommended the construction of nine prisons along the new Santo Domingo bypass, but now the country must move ahead with the jail that was built.

He criticized the lack of advances in improving the jail system in the country, leaving the system submerged in corruption. Along this line of thought, the president of the Foundation of Institutionalism and Justice, Servio Tulio Castaños Guzman advocated for actions for a sustainable prison system.

“The structures, norms and principles included in our current legislation have been left inoperative and submerged in prison practices that have become the production of mafias and criminal networks that multiply on a large scale,” said Servio Tulio Castaños Guzman speaking for Diario Libre on the distortions and weaknesses of the system that he says are unsustainable.

Read more in Spanish:
El Dia
El Despertador – as of minute 6:30
Noticias SIN
Diario Libre
Listin Diario

26 March 2024