In the first six months of the year, 45 inmate deaths from various causes have been reported, a figure that reflects the increase of 22 deaths when compared to the same period in 2020, according to data provided to THE SPOKESMAN for him Department of Correction and Rehabilitation (DCR).
Although the rise in cases has occurred in the midst of the emergency caused by the rapid spread of SARS-CoV-2 – the virus that causes covid-19 – from the figures revealed by the secretary of the DCR, Ana Escobar Pabón, there is no it shows that the inmates have died from this disease that keeps the whole world on alert.
“There were 23 (between January and June 2020). Obviously, the situation of deaths of individuals we cannot establish that they are more or that they are less and that a year is better or worse, there have simply been situations and circumstances where they (the inmates) have died. In this case, because this year we are going through 45 reported deaths, ”Escobar said.
Among the 45 deaths, as explained by the official, there are 11 from natural causes, three from unnatural causes – one suicide and two apparent violent deaths – and six pending the certification issued by the Institute of Forensic Sciences (ICF) in which it establishes death cause.
Added that there are another 17 deaths pending investigation, which are classified as such by the medical area, because the process has not been completed. Within those cases, there are nine identified by consumption of controlled substances, which caused death by overdose.
“Those are confirmed. But within that category that is pending investigation, there are some who have died from septic shock or cardiorespiratory arrest, ”Escobar pointed out.
He added that the remaining eight deaths that complete the 45 deaths so far this year, the cause of death has not yet been determined. “There are different situations that have arisen and of those eight we have no cause. So in total we have 45 so far ”, he stressed.
The most recent deaths of inmates have been reported in the Bayamón 501 Correctional Institution and two in the Río Piedras Medical Center, where they received medical services.
The head of the DCR pointed out that she did not have at hand the data of how many inmates had died in total in 2020, the year in which the covid-19 pandemic began.
By early 2019, the island’s correctional system registered a pattern of deaths that approached 550 in a decade, from causes that included homicide, suicide, illness, and drug overdoses.
Currently, the DCR is in charge of 31 adult correctional institutions, two detention centers for minors and 7,119 inmates.
Faced with the rise in inmate deaths, the president of the Ombudsman’s Office for Prison Rights, Dallie Cruz Ruiz, stated that “our wish is that the responsibility that this matter entails be addressed. There is no day that every family member lives in uncertainty; whoever wakes up with news of having lost his inmate in unknown circumstances and who does not receive the attention he deserves so as not to affect the administrative image ”.
For her part, Milagros Rivera Watterson, from the Committee of Friends and Relatives of Inmates, added that “there are too many deaths and the agency has to be transparent,” because the relatives “never find out the reasons why that inmate really died.” .
Smuggling with drones
Amid the increase in deaths, Corrección battles with the entry of contraband into prisons, where drones are used to introduce illegal items, a modality that is not new and that has also been reported in prisons in the United States, Panama, Mexico and Colombia, according to the review made by this medium.
Items occupied include cell phones and chargers, blades, cash, electrical wiring, cigarettes, marijuana, heroin, fentanyl, and slivers of the drug suboxone.
“We have reinforced the perimeter fences and have established other fences or gates to the window areas. We have reinforced the windows so that the drones do not have direct access to the window areas because through the drones unfortunately some had access to areas where the inmates could take these contraband ”, he reported.
Escobar indicated that among the security processes, he has reinforced the correctional perimeters with the use of the canine unit, meticulous searches are made – both of the visitors and the cells of the correctional population – and they have established collaborative agreements with law enforcement agencies. and state and federal order.
“We are installing screens that send a message to a computer worked by a fellow correctional officer, which detects the launch or movement of any object within the perimeters of correctional institutions. It is being installed in Bayamón ”, he advanced.
There could be more arrests
The DCR secretary said ongoing investigations could lead to additional arrests for smuggling.
It revealed that recently, during the resumption of visits after the ban due to the pandemic, “The mother of an inmate who brought controlled substances and a cell phone in the cover of a ‘snack’ that he had thrown at the entrance of the institution was arrested.”
The relative of an inmate on the premises of the Ponce Máxima institution, in possession of marijuana, was also arrested.
These two cases were filed in the courts and cause was found, so “people are going to be prosecuted for possession of controlled substances with the intention of introducing them,” Escobar explained.
He added that two correctional officers and a former correctional officer were also arrested for alleged smuggling.