In Costa Rica, not paying alimony (pensión alimentaria in Spanish) will land you in jail. Literally.
With the covid-19 crisis, the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, that runs the penitentiary system, on Monday sent an official letter to the vice president of the Supreme Court of Justice, Patricia Solano, in her role as coordinator of Criminal Affairs, so that magistrates agree to the suspension of orders of those who owe alimony.
According to Justice Minister Fiorella Salazar, the complex situation that the country is experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 outbreak generates twice the risk for the incarcerated, so there must be a decrease in the flow of prisoners within the prison system.
“(…) It is foreseeable that the national and global economic crisis will bring with it the non-fulfillment of alimony, and, therefore, an increase in the orders of corporal pressure. Particularly, the accelerated growth of income in the last days has been reported to my office to the Unidad de Apremiados Corporales. Already in the official letter No. DHR-DIND-0173-2020 Mrs. Catalina Crespo Sancho, Ombudswoman informs us of this situation and requests the adoption of urgent measures. It is requested to assess the suspension of the orders of corporal restraint, and instead, try to promote inter-institutional assistance in favor of the food creditor, or the use of electronic monitoring mechanisms,” the document states.
Daily between 400 and 500 people enter penitentiaries in the country, some sentenced and others indicted, and of them there are a significant number of men who do so after receiving an incarceration order for not paying alimony, generating overcrowding.
Another concern for the Minister of Justice is the increase in violence, which according to the reports from the Penitentiary Police, indicates that those inside believe incoming prisoners to be infected with coronaviruses and come under attack.
“Unfortunately, the behavior of some inmates is of rejection of any new person, due to the fear that this person is a carrier of the COVID-19 virus, to the point of threatening physical aggression,” said Fiorella Salazar.
For several weeks, Justice has taken preventive measures, such as, for example, the suspension of the visitation for prisoners, both regular and conjugal.
In addition, the receiving of packages (food and other supplies) for inmates from the outside has been modified because there was an agglomeration of people in the waiting lines outside the prisons.