TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras – Honduras’ 24 prisons are controlled by inmates because the state has abandoned its role in rehabilitating people convicted of crimes, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said in a report released Friday.
The commission said the prisons are so poorly guarded that the inmates could escape if they wanted to, especially in the prison in the city of San Pedro Sula.
“Prisoners do not escape because they prefer not to upset this balance,” the former director of the San Pedro Sula prison told the commission.
The commission conducted the investigation following a fire last year at the Comayagua prison that killed 362 inmates.
The commission said one consequence of the state abandonment of the prisons is the rise of so-called systems of “self-governance” that are headed by inmates known as “coordinators.”
The coordinators are picked by the inmates and set rules for the prison, including disciplinary measures, it said.
Most of the complaints by inmates are against the coordinators for physically assaulting them, something that happens “in full view of prison guards,” according to the commission.
“The administration of the prisons in Honduras currently suffers from severe structural deficiencies which have led to its collapse,” the commission said.
Official corruption and overcrowding have exacerbated the critical situation, prison officials have acknowledged. They say much of the overcrowding is due to failures in the judicial system to try prisoners. About half of all inmates are awaiting trial.
There are 12,263 people incarcerated in Honduras even though its prisons can only hold 8,120 inmates.