On August 17th 2017, the Ministry of Justice and Public Security of El Salvador, supported by the IDB Inter-American Development Bank, hosted a high-level policy workshop to reflect on the contents of a regulatory framework for the implementation of an electronic monitoring system (electronic bracelets) for the country’s detainees, as a strategy to support the decongestion of the penitentiary system.
The workshop, that brought together international experts who had the opportunity to discuss different models (United States of America, Canada, Portugal, France, UK, Belgium, Colombia, Uruguay and Costa Rica), was chaired by the Minister of Justice and Public Security, Eng. Mauricio Ramírez Landaverde.
Apart from government representatives from Costa Rica, Uruguay, and Colombia, Dr. Marayca Lopez (on behalf of CGL) and Mr. Pedro das Neves (on behalf of IPS_Innovative Prison Systems) had the chance to present and discuss different models and existing results from international experience.
With old prison infrastructures, overcrowding exceeding 300% (the highest in Latin America) and complex gang-related violent criminality, El Salvador’s penitentiary system faces a challenging situation.
The group of invited international experts also had the chance to visit the construction site of new prison infrastructures as well as the prison La Esperanza (Centro Penal la Esperanza, also known as “Mariona”), a correctional facility that holds more than 5000 inmates and where the new management model “YO CAMBIO”(I CHANGE) is being deployed.
“YO CAMBIO” is a new management and treatment model based on zero spare time, meaning that 100% of the inmates are integrated into the different treatment programs or job occupations. They are involved in the learning programs, work or occupational, cultural, or spiritual activities. The program begins with an awareness of their current deprivation of liberty situation, the recognition of the crime committed and the need of building up a new life project. Then, they are given an occupation and helped to discover their skills. There is a strong work component through the different activities of maintenance of the prison facilities and community service.
With this program, El Salvador achieved the reduction of inmates and the organization of the correctional centers; it has also improved the cohabitation and health standards. Currently, 95% of the detention centers are within the “YO CAMBIO” management model.
For further information about the penitentiary situation in El Salvador please see the thorough interview with the Director General, Mr. Rodil Hernández, at the JUSTICE TRENDS magazine.
To know more about the “YO CAMBIO” model, please watch this short video (in Spanish):