Prison conditions did not meet international standards. Prison conditions were harsh and life threatening, due to overcrowding, insufficient access to food and water, violence, abuses by prison officials, and the influence of organized crime.
Physical Conditions: The country had 24 prisons, 23 of them for men. At the end of September, the total prison population was 12,095 in a system with a designed capacity of 8,412. There were 438 women in prison.
Female prisoners generally were held in a separate facility under conditions similar to those of male prisoners. Children up to the age of three were permitted to stay with their mothers in prison.
There were four juvenile detention centers, which operated under the supervision of the Honduran Institute of the Child and Family for the first half of the year. However, under charges of widespread corruption, authorities disbanded the institute in August and created the National Office for Children to replace it. No financing was provided for the new entity. At year’s end the centers held 240 inmates. Judges tended to place minors in the centers due to lack of educational or reform programs. Minors were sometimes held together with adults.
Authorities often held pretrial detainees together with convicted prisoners (see section 1.d.).
During the year approximately 400 inmates reportedly died due to violence. On February 14, 361 prisoners died in a fire in Granja Penal de Comayagua, Comayagua Department. On March 29, 13 prisoners died in a riot at the penitentiary in San Pedro Sula, Cortes Department.
Prisoners suffered from severe overcrowding, malnutrition, and lack of adequate sanitation and medical care. Access to potable water was limited to prisoners who purchased bottled water or had water filters in their cells. Due to overcrowding and lack of adequate training of prison staff, prisoners were subject to various abuses, including rape by other inmates.
The ready access of prisoners to weapons and other contraband, impunity for inmates who attacked other inmates, inmate escapes, and threats by inmates and their associates outside prison against prison officials and their families contributed to an unstable and dangerous penitentiary system environment. Authorities held prisoners from rival gangs in separate facilities or in separate areas of the same prison to reduce intergang violence.
There were credible reports from human rights organizations that prison officials used excessive force against prisoners, including beatings, in addition to isolation and threats.
Persons with mental illnesses, as well as those with tuberculosis and other infectious diseases, were held with the general prison population. Authorities at the Dr. Marco Aurelio Soto National Penitentiary in Tamara reported that their facility was the only prison in the country with an antiretroviral treatment program, but it did not have necessary materials to test for or diagnose HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, or diabetes. In addition the surgical unit lacked anesthesia, surgical gloves, and needles.
Administration: According to the National Directorate of Special Preventive Service, the national commissioner on human rights, who performs some of the functions of an ombudsman, did not serve on behalf of prisoners and detainees. Instead, public defenders and judges served this role for such matters as seeking alternatives to incarceration for nonviolent offenders to alleviate overcrowding, addressing the status and circumstances of confinement of juvenile offenders, and improving pretrial detention, bail, and recordkeeping procedures to ensure that prisoners did not serve beyond the maximum sentence for the charged offense. However, recordkeeping procedures were inadequate, resulting in some prisoners serving time in prison longer than their sentence. Ninety-eight percent of funds dedicated to the prisons went towards salaries.
Authorities generally permitted inmates to have reasonable access to visitors and religious services of their choice. They also permitted inmates to submit complaints to judicial authorities without censorship and to request investigation of inhumane conditions. The director of prisons held meetings with human rights organizations. While the government did not monitor prison conditions on a continual basis, the National Preventive Police, National Police, and Secretariat of State of Security investigated credible allegations from prisoners and NGOs regarding inhumane conditions. Investigations results were available to the public.
Monitoring: The government generally permitted prison visits by independent local and international human rights observers, including the International Committee of the Red Cross.
Improvements: The Secretariat of State of Security continued a major prison reform program begun in 2010 involving the construction of new facilities to reduce overcrowding, separate the most dangerous prisoners from nonviolent offenders, and promote rehabilitation. In October 2011 the government opened a new maximum-security prison near Tegucigalpa with a capacity of 220 inmates, and during the year officials began transferring to the facility the prisoners considered most dangerous.
In May the National Congress passed new legislation to reform the prison system. The law calls for the construction of new prisons and the creation of a committee to restructure the penal system. However, by year’s end the congress had not appropriated funds for that purpose.