Prison conditions were harsh due to overcrowding. Authorities acknowledged that due to corruption among low-ranking and poorly paid guards, the state was unable to regulate inmates within facilities. A lack of internal control created an unsafe environment, resulting in at least 36 inmate deaths. Hundreds of children lived in the unsafe penitentiary centers, leading to several cases of child abuse and at least two children’s deaths. Many prisoners were forced to pay bribes for protection and accommodation.
Physical Conditions: Prisons and detention centers were overcrowded and underfunded. On September 2, the National Penitentiary System announced there were 14,771 inmates, an increase of 1,282 since the end of 2012, in a system designed for between 5,000 and 5,750. The human rights ombudsman reported that as of July, 13 percent of the prison population was female. During the year 236 inmates received pardons as a result of a December 2012 executive order allowing for the release of up to 1,600 inmates. Severe bureaucratic delays and lack of access to legal counsel limited the number of inmates who received pardons. On September 11, President Morales issued an executive order to pardon up to 2,000 inmates, but by November 1, authorities had released only seven inmates.
Government authorities announced that the penitentiary system’s capacity for inmates increased by 750 through the addition of a 450-person rehabilitation center in Yacuiba, Tarija Department, on June 4, and a 300-inmate facility in Patacamaya, La Paz Department, on August 19. The media reported a lack of water and electricity prevented the Yacuiba facility from accommodating the 450 inmates projected and that as of October 29, the Patacamaya facility held 161 inmates.
Due to a lack of internal policing, violence and riots among prisoners remained a problem. On April 11, inmates in Santa Cruz’s Palmasola prison killed inmate Carlos Enrique Pereira Marisa, but authorities did not investigate his death. On August 23, a fire started during a violent conflict between two groups of inmates in Palmasola prison killed 35 people, including an 18-month-old child. Government authorities responded by moving 10 inmates suspected of leading the conflict to Chonchocoro prison in La Paz Department.
There are three women’s prisons located in La Paz, Cochabamba, and Trinidad. In Morros Blancos Prison in Tarija, Montero Prison in Santa Cruz, Riberalta Prison in Beni, and Oruro Prison in Oruro, men and women shared sleeping facilities. In the other facilities, men and women maintained separate sleeping quarters, but the populations comingled daily. Conditions for female inmates were similar to those for men. Pretrial detainees were held with convicted prisoners. According to government ministry officials, 1,000 convicted juveniles (ages 16 to 21) were not segregated from adult prisoners in jails. Adult inmates and police reportedly abused juvenile prisoners. On January 17, National Penitentiary Director Ramiro Llanos ordered the relocation of 42 juveniles from the Calahuma facility in Viacha, La Paz Department, to San Pedro Prison in La Paz due to allegations of hazing and torture by police guards. After parents of the minors protested the relocation to the overcrowded San Pedro. Authorities returned the juvenile inmates to Calahuma on January 18. Rehabilitation programs for juveniles or other prisoners were scarce.
Although the law permits children up to the age of six to live with an incarcerated parent, children as old as 12 lived with a parent, usually their mothers, in prison. According to the Ministry of Education’s Alternative Education Program data released in June, at least 2,100 children and adolescents lived in the country’s penitentiaries: 1,197 were younger than age six, while 903 were older than the legal limit of six. The government took some steps to relocate children from the country’s prison facilities. On July 10, San Pedro Prison Warden Carlos Coritza announced that officials had removed 40 to 50 minors from the facility; on July 16, Santa Cruz Social Policy Director Duberti Soleto announced that he had evacuated 96 minors; and on July 27, Human Rights Ombudsman Legal Advisor David Lopez announced that authorities had relocated 40 minors from the Morros Blancos Prison in Tarija.
There were reports of abuse of children living in prison facilities. On June 10, authorities at Santa Cruz’s Palmasola prison discovered that an inmate had sexually abused a six-year-old boy living in the facility, and on June 20, La Paz’s San Pedro Prison authorities found a 12-year-old girl, whose incarcerated father, uncle, and godfather sexually abused her over a five-year period in the prison. Unsafe health conditions put children living in prison facilities at risk. After a meningitis outbreak in La Paz’s San Pedro Prison, resulting in the deaths of a woman and child on June 1, National Penitentiary Director Ramiro Llanos ordered evacuation of the estimated 236 minors living in the facility but canceled his directive after authorities were unable to secure temporary shelter for the minors.
Due to persistent corruption, a prisoner’s wealth often determined cell size, visiting privileges, ability to attend court hearings, day-pass eligibility, and place and length of confinement. In San Pedro Prison, the main facility in La Paz, officials demanded bribes of 686 to 6,860 bolivianos ($100 to $1,000) from inmates before assigning them to cells, leaving at least 180 inmates to sleep in hallways and open-air spaces. The media reported some rural facilities held as many as 45 inmates in the same cell. Inmates alleged there were an insufficient number of police officers to escort inmates to their judicial hearings, further delaying cases. Inmates also claimed that police demanded bribes in exchange for allowing them to attend hearings.
Services to sustain basic needs were inadequate. Prisoners had access to potable water, but the standard prison diet was insufficient, and prisoners who could afford it supplemented rations by buying food. National Penitentiary Director Ramiro Llanos declared that the state allocated the equivalent of 6.4 bolivianos ($0.92) for a prisoner’s daily diet and 3.2 bolivianos ($0.46) for the diet of underage children living with their inmate parents. The law provides that prisoners have access to medical care, but care was inadequate, and it was difficult for prisoners to obtain permission for outside medical treatment. On September 2, inmates in the new Patacamaya prison protested, alleging a lack of food, hot water, and beds in the facility.
Administration: Recordkeeping on prisoners was adequate and maintained by the penitentiary system’s national office. Alternatives to sentencing for nonviolent offenders were not used. Authorities provide detainees reasonable access to visitors and permit observance of their religious practices. Authorities permitted prisoners to submit complaints periodically to a commission of district judges for investigation; however, due to fear of retaliation by prison authorities, inmates frequently did not submit complaints of abuses.
Independent Monitoring: The government generally permitted prison visits by independent nongovernmental observers such as International Committee of the Red Cross, judges, and media representatives, and such visits took place during the year.