BUENOS AIRES – “The nation’s prisons will be healthy and clean, since they are for security purposes and not to punish the convicts held in them,” the Argentine constitution says, but the fact is that inmates in those jails share their cells with rats, cockroaches and, according to some complaints, even bats.
Examples pile up like the garbage at the federal prison in the Buenos Aires district of Devoto, where it is left in broken baskets to rot and collect fungus, worms, roaches and the disgusting smell they produce.
In the Buenos Aires jail of Marcos Paz, a rat bit a prisoner, while in the town of San Martin in Buenos Aires province, a prison worker died of hantavirus spread by rodents in a prison known for its bats.
Meanwhile in a penitentiary complex of La Plata, capital of Buenos Aires province, prisoners live almost 24 hours a day inside their cells, where they must wash, eat their meals and relieve themselves.
Due to the deficient hygiene of Argentine jails, both in the federal and provincial systems, the Attorney General’s Office warns of the risk they pose for penitentiary inmates.
Aside from the unsanitary conditions, the chief institutional crime, according to prosecutors, is torture.
For all those reasons, the Prosecutor’s Office for Institutional Violence, or Procuvin, has raided Devoto Prison, the central administration of the Federal Penitentiary Service, or SPF, and even certain food suppliers.
According to the head of Procuvin, Miguel Palazzani, “there has to be connivance between the private and public sectors” to create this dismal situation.
While Procuvin continues its investigations, the Justice Ministry is proceeding with what it calls “giving a qualitative leap forward to humanize prisons,” which has begun with a throrough investigation of the entire SPF.
The results are still awaited.