Capacity-building projects in Latin America
A case study from the 2014 Human Rights and Democracy Report.
During 2014, we supported capacity building projects to improve prison conditions and reduce mistreatment in countries where high numbers of British nationals are detained. In Latin America, a coordinated effort has already produced positive outcomes for British detainees held in some of the most dangerous and difficult prisons in the world. Many of these prisoners have worrying physical and mental health issues.
Prisoner Transfer Agreements (PTAs): the British Embassy in Brazil worked with the UK National Offenders Management Service to understand what was needed both in the UK and Brazil to put an agreement in place. The UK now completes more successful transfers than any other PTA-eligible country in Brazil.
Repatriation: until very recently, released foreign prisoners in Peru found themselves stranded without access to shelter or food. The process for repatriation could take up to two years or more. Following concerted lobbying by consular staff, the law has been changed so that the process can now be completed in two-anda- half months and can begin before the detainee is released. Additionally, a new law allows repatriation of foreign prisoners after meeting a third of their sentence. 24 of the 36 British nationals detained in Peru are eligible to apply.
Family contact: cooperation with Brazilian prison officials led in February to British prisoners being allowed controlled access to Skype so that they could keep in touch with their family in the UK.
Safety: in Venezuela, UK lobbying contributed to the opening of a new prison with a wing exclusively for non-violent foreign prisoners. This now means that all sentenced British nationals are in the same prison with improved and safe visiting facilities. We continue to lobby for the improvement of basic prison services, including food, water, and access to medical facilities.
Prison Reform: in Panama, we are working with UN Office of Drugs and Crime, the International Centre for Prison Studies, and the Panamanian Prison Services Academy to assist the Panamanian government to develop its prison reform program.