Category Archives: Latin America

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.