Can the Northern Triangle Contain a Prison Pandemic?

COVID-19 and Prisons in Guatemala, El Salvador, and Honduras.

Today, Latin America Advisor published an article that I was fortunate enough to be a part of. I was one of several experts that were interviewed in how capable the Northern Triangle countries are at containing a prison pandemic.

“I would argue that there are at best weak ‘prison systems’ in these three countries. We were all appalled to see the photos of the gangs lined up in the prisons of El Salvador during the peak
of a pandemic. This is not new but unfortunately standard practice—overcrowding is the norm. When I was at the Organization of American States, we developed amethodology (based on international best
practices) to test public security systems, including corrections services. In the case of Honduras, we pointed out many of the safety and security issues well before the Comayagua fire, which killed more than 350 inmates in February of 2012.

Human Rights Watch and other human rights organizations have lamented the deplorable conditions in these prisons for years. Covid-19 will exacerbate an already volatile situation. There are no easy answers, but a good start would be to implement effective medical testing and screening processes so that those who have the virus can be given the proper treatment and be isolated from the rest of the population and visitors. Effective classification systems would allow those who have completed their sentence or are aged and/or ill to be released, would separate violent repeat offenders from youthful first-time offenders and help in the development of rehabilitation programs to reduce recidivism and gradually reduce the incarceration rate, which is still too high. I can only hope that governments
realize that the upfront investment of creating effective corrections approaches is cheaper in the long run than the approaches currently in place.” – Adam Blackwell.

To read the rest of this very interesting report, with many other experts weighing in to this important topic, visit: https://www.thedialogue.org/latin-america-advisor/

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