A total of 652 inmates have been released from November of last year to the present, benefited by Law 87 of 2020 that extended to inmates – without differentiating the Penal Code under which they were sentenced – higher bonuses for good behavior, confirmed the designated secretary of the Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DCR), Ana Escobar Pabón.
The official informed THE SPOKESMAN that on November 2 of last year 452 inmates were released and so far there are already 652 who have gone out into the free community.
He explained that of the total number of inmates released, 24 are women and the remaining men. It was not reported how many more could qualify or are under evaluation and about to leave.
“The criminal records technicians review the sentence settlements of the correctional population and they are working to see if any case that was with a special law sentence – either combined with another sentence of another crime or purely a case of a special law – It is applicable to this bonus and if so, then we would proceed to work on it and verify if with that bonus he would be released from prison ”, he explained.
Law 87 of 2020 was approved by former Governor Wanda Vázquez on August 4. However, when Vázquez was Secretary of Justice, the agency had opposed this legislation.
The purpose of the project was to encourage the good conduct of the inmates and to serve the penalties imposed by the courts in less time. The discussion about the project took place at the same time that legislative and Correctional voices observed the efforts in other jurisdictions where it was decided to release inmates to reduce the prison population due to the pandemic.
Through the press spokesman, the designated Secretary of Justice, Domingo Emanuelli, stated that Law 87 was a public policy decision determined by the Executive and the Legislature, and that “if there is any proposal in which they request the opinion of the Department of Justice, then we would be in a position to issue it. “
The statute excludes from the bonuses any sentence that entails a prison sentence of 99 years, any sentence that has given rise to a determination of aggravated recidivism or habitual recidivism, in accordance with the provisions of the Penal Code of 1974, of 2004 and the Code Current criminal.
“This is not a temporary law. It is retroactively applicable to the entire confined population and not only applies to those who were admitted at this time or at the time the approval of the law began, but it is continuous. So to all inmates who enter under the circumstances established in that law, the corresponding bonus will be applied, ”Escobar Pabón highlighted.
For her part, community social psychologist Katherine Angueira, who was a victim of rape, affirmed that the legislation was a “politicking” act by senators seeking votes, in the face of the last general elections.
“The result of this project is that it continues to lower the penalties and it is a blow to the criminal… the prisoners convicted under the 2004 and 2012 Code who already had lower sentences, their sentences were lowered even more. The final balance of this law is that convicted people who are in prisons continue to be thrown the towel of their lives, who are people who have not shown their rehabilitation capacity, ”said Angueira.
He explained that if prosecutors do not request recidivism at the time of sentencing, this conduct is not recognized at the time of settling the cases.
“And it passes for disappeared and the behavior becomes invisible when the cases in which prosecutors often hide behind the concept in law known as procedural economy and do not ask for recidivism, and in transactions, they prefer to compromise the cases before facing trial because facing trial involves so much additional work, ”he maintained.
Angueira affirmed that the purpose of this law goes against the ministerial duty of the government to ensure the safety of the people. “To the extent that people convicted of crimes of violence against the people continue to be returned to the free community, those people who are not rehabilitated, and on top of that, Correction does not have effective rehabilitation programs that change the behavior of violence, those people they will return to the free community to reoffend ”, he emphasized.
The spokeswoman for the organization Friends and Family of the Inmate, Milagros Rivera Watterson, indicated that she favors the measure that had the effect of freeing these 652 inmates.
“There are people who think that all the country’s social problems are solved by putting people in jail, when the most advanced countries in the world such as Holland and Finland are closing their institutions and they do not put more than 20 years in jail for anyone and work with programs that do not necessarily lead to jail, because people can pay for what they have done to society in another way, ”said Rivera Watterson.
The spokesperson believes that the focus should be one of “restorative” justice and observed that the purpose of confinement in penal institutions is rehabilitation.
“In Puerto Rico 65% of the inmates are drug addicts and many should not be in prison, but taking treatment, so here we have to do criminal justice and review all those laws so that not everyone has to serve jail. but to look for other means to help these people so that they can be rehabilitated and be useful to society ”, he pointed out.
Rivera Watterson indicated that a few years ago in Puerto Rico there were over 12,000 inmates and that eight penal institutions have been closed. Now there are 7,150 inmates and he predicted that it will also be reduced.