Category Archives: Latin America

OVERCROWDING AND VIOLENCE CONTINUE TO BE CHRONIC PROBLEMS IN LATIN AMERICAN PRISONS

Overcrowding, inadequate physical conditions, and inmate violence are the main problems in Latin American prisons according to the latest report published by Human Rights Watch (HRW), an international non-governmental organization dedicated to protecting the human rights of the people around the world.

In its report HRW highlighted the following as the most chronic problems in Latin American prisons: (i) prisons and jails are severely overcrowded; (ii) prison guards are insufficient and poorly trained (iii) security in the prisons is weak and the infrastructures are deteriorating; (iv) inmates are confined in police lock ups not designed or equipped to hold detainees for long periods; (v) inmates are tortured by prison guards; (vi) armed gangs control prisons; (vii) inhumane prison conditions facilitate the spread of diseases and prisoners’ access to medical care remains inadequate; and (viii) hundreds of violent prison deaths occur every year.

 To partially solve the overcrowding problem, Chile, for example, has promulgated laws that allow voluntary return of non-Chilean inmates to their countries of origin.  They also provide six alternatives to prison for low risk offenders, including community service and the use of electronic bracelets. These are good reforms, but they are hardly a remedy for the massive challenges facing the Latin American prison systems.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

www.redinocente.org
www.californiainnocenceproject.org

For more information, please see: http://www.hrw.org/world-report/2013/about

COMPENSATION ORDERED IN WRONGFUL CONVICTION CASE LINKED TO PABLO ESCOBAR IN COLOMBIA

The Colombian Administrative Supreme Court (Consejo de Estado) has granted Pablo Enrique Zamora and his family 1,000 million pesos for the pain and suffering caused by his wrongful conviction and subsequent ten-year incarceration.

Pablo-EscobarEnrique was thought to be involved in the murder of the well-known journalist Guillermo Cano Isaza, head of the daily newspaper El Espectador. His tragic death took place in 1986, the murder allegedly ordered by the leader of the Medellin Cartel, Pablo Escobar, in response to the newspaper’s strong position against his drug trafficking criminal activities.

After nine years of investigation, in a procedure fraught with irregularities, Enrique, and two others, were convicted of conspiracy to commit murder and subsequently sentenced to sixteen years in prison. However, after Enrique served ten years in prison, the Supreme Court of Colombia exonerated and released him, concluding that he had been wrongfully convicted.

In its ruling the Colombian Administrative Supreme Court (Consejo de Estado) recognized that, at the time, the judicial authorities were moved by the intense pressure of the media that surrounded the case and that the evidence was not probative. The court also ordered the Judicial Branch to implement judicial training to try to prevent wrongful convictions in Colombia.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information, please see:

http://www.semana.com/nacion/articulo/asesinato-de-guillermo-cano-el-condenado-inocente-recibira-1000-millones/377849-3

http://www.freemedia.at/awards/guillermo-cano.html

http://www.eltiempo.com/justicia/ARTICULO-WEB-NEW_NOTA_INTERIOR-13624035.html

http://www.globaljournalist.org/stories/2000/07/01/guillermo-cano-colombia/

http://www.vanguardia.com/actualidad/colombia/247858-indemnizaran-a-condenado-injustamente-por-la-muerte-de-guillermo-cano-isa

http://www.elcolombiano.com/BancoConocimiento/E/el_crimen_de_guillermo_cano_de_lesa_humanidad/el_crimen_de_guillermo_cano_de_lesa_humanidad.asp

http://www.noticiasrcn.com/nacional-justicia/condenan-nacion-equivocacion-caso-guillermo-cano

http://www.caracol.com.co/noticias/judiciales/8203ordenan-indemnizar-a-hombre-condenado-por-homicidio-de-guillermo-cano/20140220/nota/2090555.aspx

Chilean Innocence Project Exonerates Wrongfully Convicted Man When Eyewitness Observes the Real Criminal Commit Another Crime!

On January 14, 2014, the Supreme Court of Chile granted the appeal of Julio C. Robles Vergara, ordering his immediate release. In June, 2012, Mr. Robles was convicted of robbery at a minimarket and was sentenced to prison for five years and one day based on the victim’s eyewitness misidentification.

Mr. Robles was identified in a photo array, but after his conviction the victim realized his mistake when he saw his real assailant stealing in another store.  Based on this information, Proyecto Inocente de la Defensoría Penal Pública de Chile was able to present the case to the Chilean Supreme Court and end Robles’ four hundred and fifty nine days of wrongful incarceration.

Cases like this demonstrate that faulty eyewitness identification is a global problem.  Courts should consider the many studies illustrating the problems with these types of identifications before convicting based on this evidence.  Mr. Robles was incredibly lucky that the actual perpetrator committed the crime again in the presence of the witness in his case.  We cannot allow cases to only be remedied when there is such a random happenstance.  How many other people sit in prison who will never be able to prove that the identification in their case was faulty?

Congratulations to Proyecto Inocente de la Defensoría Penal Pública de Chile for exonerating Mr. Robles and bringing the problems with identifications to the public’s attention in Chile.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information regarding Mr. Robles’s case, please see: http://www.proyectoinocentes.cl/sala_prensa/noticias_detalle/74/caso-robles-algunas-reflexiones-a-partir-de-un-recurso-de-revision-acogido

For more information abourt Innocence Project in Chile, please see: http://www.proyectoinocentes.cl/

For more information about Red Inocente, please see: http://www.redinocente.org/

Mexican Exoneree Sets Himself on Fire

On March 8, 2014, José Guadalupe Macías Maldonado died.  Macías, a 59 year old exoneree, set himself on fire as a protest for the lack of economic support the Government of the State had allegedly promised him when he was exonerated and released.

The tragic episode took place on March 7 in the Civic Center Plaza of Mexicali, Baja California (Mexico).  Mr. Macías shouted that the Government of the State had lied to him by promising him economic support.  He soaked himself in gasoline and set himself ablaze. Police officers were able to extinguish the fire, but not before it caused fatal injuries

Mr. Macías had been convicted of murder in 2002, despite his continuous claims of innocence.  In January 2013, the Superior Court of the State exonerated him on the basis that there had been mistakes in the investigation conducted by prosecution (Procuraduría General de Justicia).

Several days before Mr. Macías’ suicide he filed a complaint against the Government of the State claiming 10 million pesos for the pain and suffering caused by his nearly 11 years of wrongful incarceration.

This is an absolutely tragic example of how injustice can end in the worst possible way.  

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information, please see:  http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=366842

Wednesday’s Quick Clicks…

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  • The unintended consequences of compensating the exonerated
  • Canada’s system for reviewing alleged wrongful convictions “failing miserably”
  • West Virginia University Law Innocence Project pushes interrogation recording bill
  •  What does a record number of U.S. exonerations in 2013 tell us?
  • ESPN video on the wrongful accusation against Richard Jewel for the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing
  • Ex-cop exonerated after 20 years in prison awarded $9 million
  • Mexican lawyers turned filmmakers win civil suit against them brought by family of victim in wrongful conviction case they exposed through the documentary Presumed Guilty
  • Planned changes in UK’s compensation laws for exonerees will make it nearly impossible to obtain compensation after wrongful conviction
  • New Zealand Innocence Project re-ignites debate about the need for a wrongful convictions commission
  • Idaho Innocence Project client Sarah Pearce may soon be released—settlement discussions ongoing

Violence In Brazilian Prisons Revealed in Decapatation Video

Man holding jail barsThe prison conditions in Latin America continue to be a crippling problem for the justice system, highlighted by the recent events in Brazil.  On January 7, 2014, the Brazilian daily newspaper Folha de São Paulo released a gruesome video showing the decapitation of three inmates. The video was taken, presumably, by inmates of Pedrinhas prison (São Luis, Brazil), on December 17, 2014.

This is just one example of the general violence in Brazilian prisons, especially in the state of Maranhão (north Brazil), where, from 2007 to now, approximately one hundred sixty nine inmates have been killed (sixty two in Predrinhas prison during 2013).

Amnesty International has denounced the situation and has described Brazilian prisons as overcrowded dungeons. They claim the government has done little to remedy these conditions.  The U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights has also urged the Brazilian authorities to conduct an “immediate, impartial and effective” investigation.

The main causes of the problems are delays in the judicial system, lack of sufficient prison spots and the low ratio of police/inmate population. According to the International Prison Study Center, Brazil has the fourth largest inmate population in the world with 548,003 inmates housed in a penitentiary system with a capacity of 318,739.

The international pressure created due to the release of the prison decapitation video has resulted in the Minister of Justice, José Eduardo Cardozo, announcing a package of emergency measures aimed at trying to control chaos in prisons. These measures will be a positive first step in Brazilian prison reform, although without true long-term reform in the justice system prison overcrowding will continue to foster major problems.

Follow me on Twitter:  @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu

For more information, please see:  http://mexico.cnn.com/mundo/2014/01/10/brasil-despliega-un-plan-de-emergencia-contra-la-violencia-en-sus-carceles

Image courtesy of bejim / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

Mexican Prison Overcrowding Reveals Underlying Issues

Mexican prisons are suffering from severe overcrowding due to preventative detentions and the lack of sentencing alternatives.  Mexico Evaluates, a Center of Analysis and Public Policy, has referred to the country’s prison system as a ticking time bomb.

The overcrowding in Mexico’s penitentiaries is obvious when you look at the capacities and current populations. There is at least one prison operating at 400% capacity and six are operating between 176-274% capacity. Currently, there are 242,000 inmates incarcerated in 420 prisons designed to house 195,000.  As in the United States, Felipe Calderon, President from 2006 to 2012, focused on building more cells.  This did not cure the problem, which lies in the overuse of preventative detention and the lack of alternative sentencing

Statistics from this past year reveal that 41.3% of prisoners had not yet been convicted.  There were three Mexican prisons where more than 60% of inmates had not been convicted, four where more than 76% of inmates had not been convicted, and in the prison in Tabasco, 94.5% of inmates had yet to be convicted.

The second major issue is that jail-time is viewed as the only logical solution to crimes.  In 2011, 96.4% of sentences called for incarcerations.  Only 3.6% of crimes were punished with other sanctions such as fines.  This is evidence that minor or common crimes are being treated the same as serious and violent crimes.  For example, the penal code establishes a similar sentence for a nonviolent robbery and a homicide without aggravating factors.  Approximately 72,000 inmates are currently incarcerated for theft.

The Mexican penal system must be altered and not simply used for preventative detention.  Alternative sanctions should also be explored so that the punishments better fit the crimes.  Overcrowded prisons become violent and ineffective at any form of rehabilitation. Former President Felipe Calderon admitted the country’s prisons only serve a retributive purpose.  The new president, Enrique Peña Nieto, has promised to envision new solutions.  Hopefully those will be coming soon.

Family members mourn the loss of inmates killed in prison riot where 44 were left dead.

Family members mourn the loss of inmates killed in prison riot where 44 were left dead.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information please see:  <http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=355719&gt;

Photo Credit to:  <http://usatoday30.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-02-19/mexico-prison-riot/53152968/1&gt;

Immigration Policies Should Not be Driven By Prison Profiteering

On August 7, 2013, officials from the United States and Mexico met in Texas to discuss immigration reform. Roughly 400 thousand people, primarily from our bordering neighbor, are arrested for immigration violations each year.  The creation and enforcement of immigration laws has created a massive industry with a vested interest in continuing the expansion and enforcement of immigration crimes.

Corrections Corporations America, the GEO Group, and Management and Training Corporation house 80% of those apprehended for immigration crimes.  Between them, they make a profit of over $5 billion per year. CCA Founder is quoted as saying selling the concept of private prisons to the government is just “like you were selling cars, or real estate, or hamburgers.”

Prisons should not be run just like any other business.  The social costs are too great to simply consider the supply and demand of inmates, and increasing supply by legislating new crimes or changing enforcement.  Clearly, these companies rely and directly stand to benefit from anti-immigration laws. The Associated Press noted that they spent $45 million on lobbying over the last decade. Since 2005, the largest growth in prison populations came from federal immigration detentions. It has been the leading cause of incarceration for the last four years.   It is the growth sector for these businesses.

Immigration reform is at the forefront of our national and foreign policy.  Decisions need to be made that make sense domestically and for our relationships with our southern neighbors.  Those decisions should also be driven by what is right, fair, and humane.  They should not be driven by the profiteering of the corrections industry.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information please see:

<http://ljazee.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-latest/2013/10/9/privatizing-the-undocumented.html&gt;

<http://ljazee.aljazeera.com/watch/shows/the-stream/the-stream-multimedia/2013/10/9/immigration-and-privateprisoncompaniesinfographic.html&gt;

<http://hereandnow.wbur.org/2013/08/07/immigration-private-prisons&gt;

Police Killings in Brazil: “Routine” and Uncontested

According to government figures, Brazilian police kill more suspects than any other country in the world. In 2011, police in the city of Sao Paulo killed one suspect for every 229 they arrested, in comparison to the United States, where it is one per every 31,575.

A military officer takes pictures during the graduation ceremony of 920 new police officers in downtown Sao Paulo.
© 2012 Reuters

An incident last November illustrated this problem. A suspected car thief, Paulo Nascimento, was caught hiding in his home in a poor outskirt of Sao Paulo. He emerged pleading for his life: one officer slapped him, another kicked him in the rear, and a third shot him. The officers attempted to drive Nascimento to the hospital, but he died en route. Police have now been prohibited from transporting wounded suspects to hospitals, as this is often a cover-up for executions. In 2012, 360 of the 379 people transported to the hospital by police ultimately died.

What drew attention to the incident was that an anonymous neighbor got cell phone footage of the confrontation and Nascimento’s final moments. As a result of the video, the officers involved in the death of Nascimento are facing criminal charges; trial began in August of 2013.

Killings of suspects in custody or at the hands of police death squads have become the norm. However, the public is not demanding these officers be convicted. In a poll taken weeks after Nascimento was killed, 53% of Sao Paulo residents said an officer who kills criminals should not be imprisoned. The citizens are fed up with the high levels of robbery-homicides and largely unsympathetic to the fate of those who die in police custody.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information please see: <http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424127887323836504578553643435119434&gt;

<http://www.hrw.org/news/2013/07/29/brazil-executions-cover-ups-police&gt;

Wrongfully Jailed Man Dies in an Argentinean Prison

Luciano Peralta was the father of three children.  He earned his living as a gardener. He had recently separated from his wife, Esther Cerrudo, but the two were on very amicable terms. On Sunday, October 27, 2013, Esther asked Luciano to watch the kids while she took care of some personal matters.

Argentinian police officers allege that a neighbor called to report a robbery at Esther’s residence. When they arrived, the officers arrested Luciano in front of his children. They proceeded to seize his motorcycle and the bicycle that belonged to Luciano’s young son.

Luciano was imprisoned in La Plata, a province in the capital city. When his ex-wife and mother arrived at the prison, Esther explained that she had asked him to be there and the children at the house were Luciano’s children.  Nonetheless, they were told he would be spending the night in jail.

The following day, a public defender assured Luciano he would be free. She noted that he seemed lost and confused. Prior to his being released, Luciano began to suffer a panic attack. He started trembling and convulsing. His mother was at the prison, but she was not allowed to see him. The officers did not call a doctor nor did they call an ambulance. Luciano received no medical attention. Ultimately, he died in his cell.

Norma Silguero and Tatiana Peralta, mother and sister of the deceased. (Photo: @martinenlared)

Norma Silguero and Tatiana Peralta, mother and sister of the deceased. (Photo: @martinenlared)

We may never know the true motivations for the arrest or what really happened to Luciano at the jail.  This case is another example of tragedies that can result from wrongful arrests and the need for reform within the Argentinian police.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information please see:

<http://diagonales.infonews.com/nota-204205-Estuvo-preso-sin-causa-y-murio-en-los-Tribunales-de-La-Plata.html&gt;

Brazil’s New “DNA” Technology

DNA technology has become a key component in prosecuting the guilty and exonerating the innocent. DNA evidence increases certainty and enhances fairness.

In a new twist, Police Director Leandro Daiello of Brazil said the country has developed technology that works to detect the “DNA” of cocaine. The process involves analyzing trace alkaloids in the cocaine back to coca leaves grown in precise areas of the region.

Cocaine in Bolivia

 In August of 2013, Brazil reported the DNA of the nation’s drugs: approximately 60% of the country’s cocaine came from Bolivia, 30% from Peru, and 10% from Columbia. The process has enabled police to determine the origins of the drug, what other chemicals are being used in the drug’s production, and where the drugs are being transported.

A federal forensic expert for Brazil’s Criminalist Institute, Adriano Maldaner, noted that the drug problem is international, “which makes the exchange of information and training critical.” To date, the technology is being used in a project that has partnered with Bolivia, Paraguay, the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, and the United States Drug Enforcement Administration. Laboratories throughout the world are receiving the same samples and comparing their work.

On August 23, 2013, Paraguayan officials seized two tons of cocaine near the country’s border with Brazil. The aforementioned technology and regional cooperation will assist in the investigation.

In nations where access to technology remains limited, adequate policing and access to justice is also inhibited. This scientific advance is another tool in the tool box which may prove to be useful.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information please visit:

<https://reportingproject.net/occrp/index.php/en/ccwatch/cc-watch-briefs/1829-brazil-drug-dna-and-drones-to-fight-trafficking&gt;

<http://www.insightcrime.org/news-briefs/brazil-developing-technology-to-trace-cocaine-dna&gt;

<http://infosurhoy.com/en_GB/articles/saii/features/main/2013/08/19/feature-01&gt;

<http://globalnews.ca/news/799330/paraguay-seizes-nearly-2-tons-of-cocaine-along-brazil-border/&gt;

Children Living in Jails in Bolivia

The San Pedro Prison located in La Paz, Bolivia, was built 140 years ago for 250 inmates. Today it houses around 2,000 inmates and is home to 200 children. The number rises to almost 400 at Christmas time.

The mural reads: Welcome to the football pitch... Freedom and justice for everyone.

The mural reads: Welcome to the football pitch… Freedom and justice for everyone.

Denis Racicot, a representative of the United Nations High Commission on Human Rights, reported that Bolivia is the only country where children live in jails with their parents. Ramiro Llanos, the current Director of the Prison system, insisted this is not uncommon practice in other parts of South America.

During the day, the children living in San Pedro either go to nurseries located inside or attend schools outside. There is an elementary school 50 yards away. The kids are ashamed of their residence, often making up false addresses. Furthermore, their perception of reality is significantly disparate from those of their classmates.

Children living in the Bolivian jails.

Children living in the Bolivian jails.

Life inside the San Pedro Prison is extremely unique. First and foremost, inmates must pay for their rooms. The jail is divided into eight sectors based on their relative value, ranging from the most luxurious La Posta sector to the most miserable. Inmates can rent their rooms if they are unable to afford them. There are also inmates who are homeless, forced to live in the hallways, because they cannot afford rent. This is comparable to drug warlords in Mexico, who are afforded better cell accommodations, food, and liquor catering services thanks to their political power, social position, and monetary advantages.

In order to pay for their rooms, inmates must work to earn a living. Within the jail they might work as carpenters, laundry staff, shoe-shiners, or sell food and groceries. Police do not intervene with the jail’s internal affairs. Prisoners are denied sufficient basics like soap, shampoo, and clothing. Thus, the majority of their resources are brought to them from outside family members, including their children.

Live inside a Bolivian prison.

Life inside a Bolivian prison.

The fact that children are living with their incarcerated fathers is evidence of the lack of positive alternatives for them. Some say that it has a humanizing effect on inmates, encouraging their rehabilitation and desire to reenter society successfully. However, the potential for disastrous psychological and physical effects is there. For example, in June, a 12 year-old girl was raped and impregnated. In the nearby city of Santa Cruz, a prison fire on August 23, 2013, killed 29 inmates and one 18-month old child.

Due to the outrage that these two recent events sparked, the government of Bolivia stressed it plans to shut down the prison in San Pedro. This is not the first time the government has threatened to take action. Furthermore, it is an action directed at the symptom, not the source of the problem. First, quite astoundingly, only 25% of inmates have actually been convicted. The rest are awaiting trial. This reflects the entire country’s incarceration rate: as of 2011, 80% of the 10,496 prisoners were on preventative detention. Additionally, every four of five prisoners is in for drug-related offenses.

In 2011, President Evo Morales attempted to address the issue of the stagnant and corrupt judicial system by holding a nation-wide election. Judges were chosen for the Supreme Court and three lower courts. There were 125 candidates, 52 positions, and 5.2 eligible voters. Unfortunately, a congressional assembly committee made up of the President’s supporters selected the 125 candidates. The opposition was merely able to view candidates and voice appeals.

The San Pedro Prison is essentially a “jail town.” Inmates must work to earn a living, pay for their accommodations, and are permitted to live with their sons and daughters. This poses a huge risk to the children. Nevertheless, due to the lack of institutional development in the judicial area, insufficient public resources, and extreme poverty of most prisoners, the situation looks bleak. It seems access to justice is severely limited by one’s economic power.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For sources and information please see:

<http://www.nu.org.bo/noticias/noticias-nacionales/onu-rechaza-presencia-de-ninos-ninas-en-las-carceles/&gt; <http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/shared/spl/hi/picture_gallery/06/americas_inside_a_bolivian_jail/html/1.stm&gt;

<http://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/2011/10/201110169924243497.html&gt;

<http://danmoriarty.blogspot.com/2013/06/closing-san-pedro-prison.html&gt;

Chile Closes Luxury Prison

CHILEAN JAIL FOR DICTATORSHIP SUPPORTERS WILL BE CLOSED AFTER MOVING INMATES

One house in the Cordillera jail in Santiago, now to be closed.

General Augusto Pinochet ruled over Chile as a dictator from 1973 to 1990. When he died in 2006, he was facing over 300 potential criminal charges for human rights violations, tax evasion, and embezzlement. The 40th anniversary of the coup d’état that brought him to power was passed on September 11. For many, it was a day to remember Pinochet intolerance for political opposition and the tens of thousands of people who were killed, tortured, or interned during his reign. To date, Chile has officially recognized 40,018 victims of the dictatorship; 75% were killed.

Penal Cordillera is a luxury prison that was built in the capital city of Santiago in 2004. It currently houses only 10 inmates: eight generals and two colonels from Pinochet’s military. The inmates have “an assistant, three paramedics, two cuisine teachers, and a nutritionist to supervise their meals.” The convicts live in small cabins with hot showers, share a pool, tennis court, and barbecue, and are allowed to visit home. It is known as a “golden prison.” It is very different from the Chilean prisons I recently posted about where substandard sustenance, sanitary conditions, and overcrowding has incited various long-lasting hunger strikes.

On September 26, President Sebastián Piñera announced his decision to close Cordillera. He pointed to the importance of “equality before the law” as his reasoning. Piñera announced the inmates would be moved to Punta Peuco, a less luxurious jail also intended for human rights offenders. Two days after his statement, the head of Pinochet’s feared intelligence agency, General Odladier Mena, left the prison for the weekend and killed himself outside his home.

The director of Chile’s official Human Rights Institute called the closure of Cordillera a milestone. Michelle Bachelet, former president and front-runner for the upcoming November election, was detained and tortured during Pinochet’s dictatorship. She praised the decision.

Follow me on Twitter: @JustinoBrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information please see:

<http://www.theguardian.com/world/2013/sep/27/chile-closes-luxury-prison-pinochet-cordillera&gt;

<http://latino.foxnews.com/latino/news/2013/09/29/chile-pinochet-era-general-commits-suicide-before-jail-transfer/&gt;

<http://www.voxxi.com/chile-closes-golden-prison/&gt;

Photograph: Mario Ruiz/EPA

Lawyers Gather in Buenos Aires for Second Annual Latin America Innocence Conference

Attorneys gathered from all over Latin America for the Red Inocente!  Second Annual Latin American Innocence Conference last week in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Over a span of three days, Enrique Piñeyro, the Director of the newly established Innocence Project Argentina, graciously welcomed participants from Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, México, Nicaragua, Paraguay, and Puerto Rico.  The group included attorneys, law students, judges, academics, politicians, scientists, and members of the media.

Director of the Innocence Project Argentina, Enrique Piñeyro

Director of the Innocence Project Argentina, Enrique Piñeyro

Piñeyro, also an accomplished Argentine film director, hosted the conference and organized speakers on an array of topics. Attorneys spoke about evidentiary issues.  Experts spoke about the criminalization of the poverty in the Latin American jails and corruption in the judiciary.  California Innocence Project exoneree, Rafael Madrigal, spoke about the seven years he spent in prison after he was wrongly convicted for an attempted murder in Orange County, California.  Exoneree, Eric Volz from Nicaragua, also spoke on his international experience resulting from his wrongful murder conviction.  Both of these talks allowed people to hear about the real-life experiences of those unjustly sent to prison and illustrated why innocence work is so important throughout the world.

Director of the California Innocence Project, Justin Brooks

Director of the California Innocence Project, Justin Brooks

This conference was the second conference of its kind.  The first conference was held in 2012 in Santiago de Chile.  Since the conference in Chile, innocence projects have taken root in Mexico, Argentina, Chile, and Peru.  The directors of these projects, as well as the director of the already long-established project in Colombia, were able to speak to the group and relay the problems, challenges, and successes of their work in their respective countries.

Participants and speakers from Brazil, Unites States, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Argentina.

Participants and speakers from Brazil, Unites States, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Argentina.

Piñeyro also showcased his documentary, The Rati Horror Show, to demonstrate the corruption and serious problems of the Argentine judicial system.  The documentary was pivotal in the release of Fernando Carrera, who was convicted of murder because the police altered evidence at the scene of the crime and manipulated witness testimony.  Carrera, in an unexpected Argentina Supreme Court decision, was ordered back to prison when the Court denied the decision by the lower court to reverse his conviction.  Carrera’s attorneys also participated in a forum where participants were allowed to ask them questions about the judicial decisions and the facts surrounding the underlying conviction.

The Mexican documentary, Presunto Culpable, was also shown at the conference.  The film vividly illustrates the struggle to exonerate an innocent man in the deeply flawed Mexican justice system.

Directors of the established  projects from Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Nicaragua, Colombia, and the United States.

Directors of the established projects from Colombia, Brazil, Peru, Mexico, Chile, Nicaragua, Colombia, and the United States.

Red Inocente! hopes to organize a conference for Latin American innocence projects every year to continue to share information, experiences, and knowledge.  The conference will be held in Bogotá, Colombia in October of 2014.  Red Inocente! is a non-profit legal and education program designed to offer assistance to those who are trying to help secure the release of innocent prisoners in Latin America, promote legislative reforms to reduce the number of wrongful convictions, and offer information on latest developments in forensic science and law to the lawyers who litigate these cases.

Follow me on Twitter @justinobrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information, please visit the following websites:  www.redinocente.org, www.ipargentina.org.

Law Review Issue on Wrongful Convictions Around the Globe Now in Print…

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At long last, the University of Cincinnati Law Review symposium issue stemming from the 2011 International Innocence Conference in Cincinnati is finally in print.  The edition contains articles discussing and summarizing the causes and extent of wrongful conviction in countries across the globe.  You can find the entire volume here.  Congrats to all involved on completing this important work.

Chilean Prisoners: Denied Human Rights and a Voice

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Chile has one of the highest incarceration rates of Latin America. However, according to the 2012 Human Rights Report from the University of Diego Portales, the country has the lowest number of violent crimes in the region.

This problem manifests in two ways: many basic needs of prisoners are ignored; meanwhile, they are unable to voice their concerns. It has become a public interest concern. For instance, on August 14 twenty-four prisoners were injured in a fire at the Penitentiary in Quillota. Three years earlier, a fire in San Miguel killed eighty-one.

The problem persists because the government does not recognize its fundamental role to protect all citizens, including incarcerated ones. In 2012, President Sebastián Piñera promised to build more jails in order to circumvent the evident prison overcrowding. Nevertheless, the treatment of the convicts themselves has improved little.

Prisoners are subject to torture, cruel and inhumane treatment. Any sense of rehabilitation is far from reality for Chilean inmates.

On the other hand, the 16th and 17th amendments of the Chilean constitution prohibit detainees from participating in the voting process. Thus, they lack a vehicle to improve their conditions—53,410 citizens are being disregarded. This is not the case in countries such as Canada, Iran, South Africa, and Ukraine.

It is evident Chile is not facilitating the successful reentry of its inmates into society. Not only are they being discriminated against, but they are often from the most marginalized areas of the country to begin with. Though these individuals may deserve to have their liberty restricted, it is indefensible to strip them of their dignity.

Follow me on Twitter @justinobrooks

Professor Justin Brooks
Director, California Innocence Project
California Western School of Law
225 Cedar Street
San Diego, CA 92101
jpb@cwsl.edu
www.californiainnocenceproject.com

For more information from the original article: http://www.elquintopoder.cl/justicia/la-indolencia-con-los-privados-de-libertad/

This photo is taken from: http://www.pulsamerica.co.uk/2010/12/12/chile-this-week-4/

Tuesday’s Quick Clicks…

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Miami ‘injustice system’ gets international attention

The release this week of Amanda Knox’s book, Waiting to be Heard, and her hour-long interview on ABC last night puts the focus on the growing problem of citizens of one country being convicted in the unfamiliar court system of another country.

Knox has gained strong sympathy in her native United States. But feelings toward her in Italy, where her murder conviction occurred before being overturned, and in Great Britain, where murdered roommate Meredith Kercher was from, are less favorable.

The shoe is on the other foot in the murder conviction in the United States of a British citizen of Indian descent, Kris Maharaj, who grew up in Trinidad and made a fortune in Britain before moving to Florida. Maharaj has gained lots of support and media exposure in Britain, but relatively little in the U.S.

Maharaj got a rude introduction to the American justice system when two business rivals were killed in a Miami hotel room in 1986 and he was convicted of their murders and sentenced to death. Maharaj’s case had many sordid aspects, including a judge who was arrested mid-trial on bribery charges, a lackadaisical attorney (who is now a judge), police and prosecutors who withheld evidence, Caribbean con-artists and Columbian cocaine dealers.

Clive Stafford Smith bares these facts in his compelling book, The Injustice System: A Murder in Miami and a Trial Gone Wrong, which was previously published in Britain as Injustice.

Stafford Smith has an interesting perspective. The British citizen attended the University of North Carolina and graduated from Columbia Law School. He then spent two decades representing death-row clients in the United States before returning to Britain, where he is founder and director of Reprieve, a nonprofit legal defense firm. One of his American clients was Maharaj. In his book, Stafford Smith recounts how he developed convincing evidence that the murders for which Maharaj was sentenced to death were really committed by a Columbian hit man to exact revenge for the victims’ theft of a drug cartel’s profits.

Stafford Smith tells how he got Maharaj’s death sentence overturned with some regret. Why? Because, Stafford Smith says, American courts are far less likely to consider evidence of innocence if the defendant isn’t on death row. As a result, Maharaj, now in his 70s, languishes in prison with little chance of having the evidence Stafford Smith has developed ever considered. You can read more about the case here and here.

Convicted for Not Speaking Spanish

TWO NAHUA INDIGENOUS MEN INCARCERATED IN MEXICO FOR NEARLY THREE YEARS FOR NOT SPEAKING SPANISH

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José Ramón Aniceto Gómez (64-years-old) and Pascual Agustín Cruz (48-years-old) were recently exonerated by the Supreme Court of Mexico after almost three years in prison. The nahua men from Atla, a community north of Puebla, Mexico, were arrested in January of 2010. In 2008, the men were chosen by their community to lead a movement to ensure free water. If they were successful, their efforts would harm the economic and political interests of the Mexican PRI political party. The men were sentenced to six years and 10 months for a crime against which they could not even defend themselves because they did not speak Spanish.
Before the case was resolved, Amnesty International declared the men “prisoners of conscience” after more than 30,000 letters were delivered to the Mexican government asking for the men’s freedom. The Supreme Court of Mexico ruled in the men’s favor 4 to 1 after noting multiple inconsistencies in the case. Prosecutors claimed the men robbed a truck; a crime shown to never have occurred. The court also ruled the men’s due process rights were violated because they were not allowed access to an interpreter during their incarceration and trial process.
The men were defended by lawyers from the Center of Human Rights Augustín Pro Juárez. A representative from Amnesty International, Daniel Zapico, said “there may be many other cases of innocent people in jail.”
For more information visit the following source of this information: http://www.proceso.com.mx/?p=326474 Photo credit to Centro Prodh

International Expansion of the Innocence Movement in 2012

The purpose of this post is to briefly summarize organized innocence activity around the world during 2012 (If I have left items out, please let me know so I can supplement this post).  The calendar year 2012 undoubtedly saw the largest expansion of organized innocence work in history.  Well-attended innocence conferences were held in 5 different continents.  Organizations designed to free the innocent operated in every inhabited continent, and new projects launched in various Latin American countries, France, the Netherlands, the Philippines, Israel, and Taiwan, among others.  Here is a brief summary:

  • The Innocence Network, which currently consists of more than 60 member projects in the U.S., UK, Canada, the Netherlands, and Australia, issued its 2012 report, which lists the members and summarizes the 22 exonerations  its members obtained in the calendar year.  Major conferences on the subject were held in Australia, the UK and the U.S.
  • A network of organizations fighting for the innocent was launched in Latin America, Red Inocente (website here).  Red Inocente held its first annual conference in July, which was attended by more than 70 representatives from various Latin American countries.  Presentations were made about innocence efforts underway in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Mexico, Nicaragua, Paraguay, Peru, and Puerto Rico.  Details of conference here.  The second annual conference will be held in 2013 in Buenos Aires.  Red Inocente has already seen its first exoneration, which occurred this year in Argentina.
  • In Europe, the UK has had a rich history of innocence work for decades, most recently spearheaded by the Innocence Network UK, and many other university-based groups not part of INUK.  This past year has seen innocence organizations launch in the Netherlands and in Lyon, France.  The Innocence Law Clinic in Warsaw, Poland, successfully continued its operations, which have been ongoing since 1999, and the Supreme Court of Poland held a lecture on the international expansion of the Innocence Movement, sponsored by the Helsinki Foundation.  Also in Poland, a conference was held in Krakow on on the topic of wrongful convictions, attended by judges and prosecutors from across the country.  In the Czech Republic, lectures on wrongful convictions were held at 2 major law schools, summarized in this news clip.  Interest in starting an innocent project is budding in Italy, with representatives from a major law school there planning to attend the 2013 Innocence Conference and to shadow the Ohio Innocence Project this summer.
  • In Africa, the highly-organized Wits Justice Project in South Africa continued its operations with many successes; and a new Innocence Project South Africa launched
  • The Israeli Wrongful Convictions Clinic launched
  • In Asia, projects launched with much acclaim in Taiwan and the Philippines.  China held its first major conference on the topic of wrongful conviction, attended by hundreds of judges, prosecutors, professors and defense attorneys.  Two books on wrongful convictions, False Justice and Illustrated Truth, were translated and published in China.