Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

Ecuador seeks to alleviate overcrowding in its prisons after gang-related riots killed more than 300 people this year.

Ecuador’s president pardoned some prisoners in an effort to alleviate overcrowding in the country’s prisons following a string of riots which left more than 300 people dead this year.

In a statement late Monday, Guillermo Lasso’s press office said the president had pardoned prisoners involved in traffic violations that did not cause injuries or death, as well as others suffering from serious or terminal illnesses.

It did not specify how many people would receive a waiver.

“This decision includes the total remission of imprisonment, but does not destroy the obligation of comprehensive repairs (to victims) for which all who receive remission are responsible,” the statement said.

Ecuador recorded its deadliest prison riot in September when 119 people – all prisoners – were killed at Penitenciaria del Litoral, a facility in the coastal city of Guayaquil, in what authorities said were clashes between rival gangs linked to drug trafficking.

Earlier this month, another riot took place in the same prison and killed dozens of prisoners.

Experts have pointed to nationwide prisons overcrowding, a lack of rehabilitation programs for inmates, a shortage of trained staff, and inadequate infrastructure within the facilities as some of the key issues contributing to the violence.

The prisons are plagued by overcrowding of about 30 percent and poor living conditions for the system’s 39,000 inmates.

The head of the prison authority said in early October that Ecuador planned to forgive as many as 2,000 prisoners to ease the pressure on the system, with priority given to release to elderly and female prisoners, as well as those with disabilities and terminal illnesses.

Ecuador is also preparing to send 170 Colombian prisoners back to their own country, following an agreement with the Colombian government over the weekend.

Lasso’s government also undertook to use the armed forces and police to maintain order at the prisons.

But critics question whether increased militarization will solve the problem.

“Going in by force is not the solution. You can not have a focus on militarization and oppression, you have to have a focus on rehabilitation, otherwise it will not work, ”Ramiro Narvaez, a lawmaker from the Izquierda Democratica (Democratic Left) party, told Al this month Jazeera said.

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