Prison conditions were harsh. Overcrowding, inadequate sanitation, difficulties obtaining medical care, and violence among prisoners remained serious problems in some prison facilities. Security and administrative staffing was insufficient to care for the needs of prisoners, including personal safety.
Physical Conditions: The prison population increased and exceeded designed capacity by 38 percent. Prison overcrowding made security and control difficult and contributed to health problems. Poor conditions included inadequate space for resting, deteriorated mattresses on the floor, and inadequate access to health services. Illegal narcotics were readily available in the prisons and drug abuse was common.
On August 13, the Ministry of Justice’s social adaptation (prisons) division reported a total population of 31,491 under its supervision, compared with 28,046 in July 2012. The population included 13,694 prisoners in closed-regime centers, 2,125 persons required to spend nights and weekends in jail, and 14,942 in supervised work programs requiring no jail time. There were 739 juveniles and 847 women prisoners as of June 30. Officials generally separated prisoners by age, gender, and level of security (minimum, medium, and maximum). Authorities held pretrial detainees with convicted prisoners on occasion. The ombudsman’s office confirmed that prison conditions were the same for women and men.
The San Sebastian, San Carlos, Cartago, Liberia, Pococi, Perez Zeledon, Puntarenas, Limon, La Reforma, Gerardo Rodriguez, and Buen Pastor prisons remained overcrowded as of June 30, with the population in pretrial detention experiencing the most overcrowding. In San Sebastian, where most prisoners in pretrial detention were held, 1,159 prisoners lived in unsanitary conditions in a facility with a planned capacity of 664.
Potable water was available in prison facilities.
The Ministry of Justice’s social adaptation division reported seven deaths in closed regime centers as of June 30.
Administration: Recordkeeping was adequate. Judicial authorities used alternative measures such as semi-detention, requiring individuals to spend nights and weekends in prison, and supervised work programs requiring no jail time. Prisoners had reasonable access to visitors and could practice their religions. Authorities permitted prisoners and detainees to submit complaints to authorities without censorship and request investigation of credible allegations of inhumane conditions. If complaints were not processed, prisoners could submit them to the ombudsman’s office, which investigated all complaints at an administrative level. The ombudsman’s office, through the National Prevention Mechanism against Torture, periodically inspected all detention centers.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by international and local human rights observers, including representatives from the ombudsman’s office. Human rights observers could speak to prisoners and prison employees in confidence and without the presence of prison staff or other third parties.
Improvements: The Ministry of Justice reported maintenance and repairs in nine prison centers, including improvements to the potable water system at La Reforma and San Carlos prisons.