GUATEMALA CITY – Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales and the US assistant secretary of state for the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs, William Brownfield, inaugurated Monday the penitentiary management model’s first rehabilitation and reintegration center for some 160 female inmates.
During the inaugural act at the Fraijanes I Prison Complex, Brownfield noted the need for more facilities like this for those who have completed their sentences but have not yet been released.
“Without a correctional system that functions professionally, we basically turn prisons into centers of training and post-graduate studies in crime. Worse still, into recruiting centers for the maras and street gangs all over the country,” said the US official on a state visit to this country.
Brownfield spoke of the need to “modernize” the nation’s penitentiary system, a project for which he offered his country’s help, as he did for the unrelenting fight against corruption and impunity.
For his part, Morales said the inauguration of this facility, the Women’s Center for Sentence Completion, is “the starting point for the remodeling and integral reform of the Guatemalan penitentiary system,” characterized above all by its overcrowding and lack of control by the authorities who operate it.
Interior Minister Francisco Rivas said that this rehab center, “which is not a prison,” is the first of five that will be inaugurated this year in order to “take advantage of jail time to reconstruct the deconstructed, to bring back what has been lost.”
“Our society needs those who leave prison to be better people than when they were committed,” the government official said, adding that this model is a “strategic response” to that requirement and that the authorities will use it for the reeducation and rehabilitation of women who have served their sentences.
On several occasions the government has admitted that street gangs control all of the country’s 22 penitentiaries, where some 20,000 people are held behind bars – which in turn represents a 200-percent overcrowding.
The inauguration of the first rehab and reintegration center of the penitentiary management model at Fraijanes I Prison will benefit some 100 women by reintegrating them into society and will employ some 80 guards of the Penitentiary System, who were trained in the Dominican Republic, which along with the US has lent a hand in the project.