Photo for illustration purposes.Photo by Ministry of Justice and Peace
Photo for illustration purposes.Photo by Ministry of Justice and Peace

COSTA RICA NEWS – By Henry Morales & Ariana Crespo, Vozdeguanacaste – Nicoya may become the site of a penitentiary used to relieve overcrowding in prisons throughout the country. The project is an initiative of the Ministry of Justice and Peace.

The penal center would house some 500 inmates who would come from prisons in the Greater Metropolitan Area (GAM – Gran Area Metropolitana), according to information released by the Municipality of Nicoya. The canton’s mayor, Marco Jimenez, expressed his concern, as he considers the initiative inappropriate for the community.

“We have expressed our disagreement with the project because what Nicoya needs are intelligent investments and that our qualified labor has options for employment, that they bring us companies that allow us to develop our ability to invigorate our economy, and not prisons. Our proposition is that we accept investment in the Canton of Nicoya, but that investment should be to generate employment and, above all, guarantee social peace,” commented Jimenez.

In addition, Jimenez said that he is interested in having the project explained to the people. “We want people to hear about this project, because I can be in disagreement, but if the people are in agreement with a prison in Nicoya, well, I have to accept it. It should be a democratic decision,” explained Jimenez.

The mayor explained that they were notified about the project a month ago, and that after analyzing the repercussions that it would cause in the canton, they decided to send a letter to the Ministry of Justice to state their opposition to the initiative.

Upon hearing the municipality’s position, social adaptation officials from the Ministry of Justice scheduled a meeting in Nicoya for July 18, with the goal of providing information about the project to municipal officials and the general public. However, the meeting was canceled.

“We’ve approached the Municipality of Nicoya, with Mayor Marco Jimenez, to see this project, as well as rescheduling the meeting with interested parties in the area and we are waiting for the mayor’s office to indicate when the meeting will be held,” commented Maria Enriquez, spokesperson for the Ministry of Justice.

The Voice of Guanacaste tried to interview Vice Minister of Justice Carlos Alberto Rodriguez about the penal center. However, the official communicated through his spokesperson (Maria Enriquez) that he did not wish to speak about the project, as it is just entering the phase of analysis.

The facility would be built with funding from the Inter-American Development Bank (BID – Banco Interamericano de Desarrollo), though the project’s start date has not been defined. For now it remains in the analysis phase.

Currently, there is a semi-institutional Adaptation Center operating in Rio Grande in Nicoya, along the highway towards Amistad Bridge. The center has been operating for two decades and currently there are some 110 inmates detained there.

The inmates at the center of social adaption are low-risk individuals, they are working off conditional sentences and have shown progress in the process of social reintegration, which is to say they show signs and interest in reintegrating into society normally.

For Omar Chavarria, chief of the Public Force in Nicoya, building a penitentiary in the area comes strictly from the need to relieve overcrowding in the country’s prisons.

“We know that no one likes this kind of institution as a neighbor, but the initiative to build prisons is to solve the problem of overcrowding that exists in the country’s penal centers,” explained Chavarria.

Article by Vozdeguancaste, reposted with permission

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