Friday, September 30, 2005

Prison protests and uneaten food

Protests by inmates in El Salvador's prisons have created chaos in the penal system. Throughout this year there have been ongoing protests in La Esperanza prison (Mariona) and other prisons in the country. Prisoner protests have focused on restrictions on family visits and transfers of prisoners from one prison to another. An article from Crispaz in March 2005 describes some of the prisoners' demands.

Salvadoran prisons are overcrowded and tense. During August 2004, 31 prisoners in La Esperanza were massacred in rioting involving a clash between rival gangs. The government's "Firm Hand" anti-gang policies have filled the prisons past capacity. Some current prison conditions were described in this January 2005 post.

In the most recent round of protests, for the past month prisoners have refused to go to appear at court hearings. Hundreds of hearings have had to be postponed because prisoners do not shown up.

These protests include hunger strikes. La Prensa had a truly sad story yesterday. The paper reports how the poor who live close to the prison center in Chalatenango queue up for food in the afternoon sun (and rain). The source of the food? It's the food which the prisoners have rejected because they are on a hunger strike. For many of the poor in the region, these "leftovers" are better than what is available in their households.

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