April 7th, 2014 (InsideCostaRica.com) The Committee on Security and Drug Trafficking of the Legislative Assembly has approved a bill to provide for the early release of prisoners when the overcrowding of a prison reaches 20% more than its capacity. Overcrowding in the country’s prisons is currently estimated at 38% over capacity.
The bill, known as Ley N.° 18.867, was introduced in August 2013 by independent lawmaker, Carlos Gongora, president of the Committee.
The bill proposes that judges visit the country’s prisons every month and analyze their level of overcrowding. Should an overcrowding problem exist, judges would order a collective release, with prisoners closest to finishing their sentences being released first. Consideration will also be made to prisoners’ legal status (convicted or awaiting trial) and criminal history.
The text of the bill, written by Judge Roy Murillo, has been endorsed by the Public Defender’s Office, The Public Prosecutor’s Office, and the Ministry of Justice.
Under the bill, criminals sentenced to five years or less and who are also drug addicts would be sentenced to treatment rather than serving their sentence behind bars.
The bill now awaits publication in the official La Gaceta, after which it will head to plenary for debate.
The US State Department criticized the overcrowding problem in Costa Rica’s prisons in a human rights report last year.