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Thursday, July 24 2014 @ 08:38 PM EDT

Abandonment of Damned - Prison Overcrowding in Chiriquí

Panama News By Marcelino Rosario for DIAaDIA - Chiriquí, Panama - The prison is like a city within the city of David, with a population of more than 900 people who live in conditions of terrible overcrowding. The problem is where to stay once your arrive. Just finding a place to sleep can be one of the worst headaches for a person to have when sent to this prison, located it the heart of the district. The Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra park is just a few miles away, as well as the banking center of Chiriqui, supermarkets, the Enrique Malek international airport, as well as all of the department stores. INSIDE THE MONSTER - La Mata is the most feared area in the prison. There are about 500 detainees, and it is the section of the prison that is the most crowded dangerous. The prisoners being held there have committed the most serious crimes, including homicide, rape and, and drug trafficking. Luis Sanchez is one of them. He said in the cells sleeping in a hammock is the most acceptable option, as many as four people share one mattress. Still others are forced to sleep on the floor. The detainees complain because they live in the worst health conditions and are unaware of the health status of their friends. While some cling to religion and the Bible, others spend their days hammocks slung near the ceiling. Enrique Fernandez, the Governor of Chiriqui, said the prison should be closed and replaced because overcrowding is a serious problem. This is a situation that must be met with great urgency. (See Comments)

Editor's Comment: This is one prison I have not visited, but I have been in many others around the country and this article confirms the conditions are all pretty much the same at all prison facilities. The Panamanian journalists don't ever really know how to "see" just how bad a Panamanian prison can be because they don't have any frame of reference of what generally humane conditions look like. It would be worth the time to send a handful of Panamanian journalists to visit a maximum security facility in the United States somewhere to see what basic and minimum standards are - even for hard-core criminals sentenced to life in prison with no chance of ever being released. Forget water boarding - just send the damn Taliban guys to a Panamanian prison and treat them like every other prisoner - this place makes Gitmo look like friggin' Disney World by comparison. If charged with a crime you can be locked up here for years, and if you're caught trying to smuggle cocaine you'll be in a place just like this for a very long time.

Presas del abandono

El hacinamiento es evidente en la cárcel La Mata, en David.

Marcelino Rosario | Chiriquí, DIAaDIA

Una ciudad dentro de otra es la cárcel pública de David, con una población de más de 900 habitantes que conviven en un terrible hacinamiento. Llegar y quedarse es el problema. Sólo buscar un lugar donde dormir es el peor de los dolores de cabeza que puede tener una persona cuando es enviada a este centro penitenciario, ubicado en el centro del distrito.

A pocos kilómetros se encuentran el Parque Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra, el centro bancario de Chiriquí, las cadenas de supermercados, el aeropuerto Internacional Enrique Malex y la avenida cuarta con todos sus almacenes.

DENTRO DEL MONSTRUO

La Mata es el área más temida en el reclusorio. Hay cerca de 500 detenidos, el de mayor hacinamiento y el más peligroso. Allí están los reos que han cometido los delitos más graves, como homicidios, violaciones carnales y narcotraficantes.

Luis Sánchez es uno de ellos. Él manifiesta que en las celdas no cabe la gente y dormir en una hamaca es la opción más aceptable, pues en una colchoneta lo hacen hasta cuatro personas. A otros le toca el piso.

Los detenidos se quejan porque viven en las peores condiciones de salubridad y desconocen el estado de salud de sus compañeros.

Mientras unos caminan abrazados con la Biblia, otros pasan el día acostados en sus hamacas, casi colgadas del techo.

Enrique Fernández, gobernador de Chiriquí, aseguró que esta cárcel hay que cerrarla y cambiarla, porque el hacinamiento es muy notorio. Se trata de una situación que se debe atender con mucha urgencia.

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