The event was kicked off by the coordinator of Disruptive Ideas, Daniela Andrea Suárez Naranjo, from the .Colombia’s Attorney General’s Office Dr Karin Dotter-Schiller from the Austrian Federal Ministry of Justice spoke about “The Austrian Prison System: Prison Policies to Improve Social Reintegration ”. Then Dr. Jaime Vera, a professor in the Department of Criminal Law and Criminal Procedure at the Law School of the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Valparaíso explained prison regulations in the Chilean experience.
European experience in international cooperation
Lorenzo Tordelli, co-coordinator and manager of EL PAcCTO’s Prison Systems component, presented an analysis of the European and Italian experience in international cooperation to combat the infiltration of transnational crime in prison systems. He also analysed some crucial tools to win the fight against organised transnational crime. Among them:
- Afford the prison system the importance it deserves as a fundamental link in the penal chain.
- International Cooperation.
- Foster specific collaboration between the actors in the criminal chain, primarily the prosecution, police and prison administration.
Mafia influence inside prisons
Drawing on EL PAcCTO’s experience in both Europe and Latin America, Tordelli stated that criminal organisations are still active in prisons leading to privileges for bosses, recruitment, intimidation of other inmates, ongoing connections with the organisation in the outside world, demonstrating that the imprisonment of Mafia bosses does not prevent, but rather can even strengthen the operational dynamics of the organisation.
In light of this, we can say that one of the first successes and merits of EL PAcCTO has been to include the prison system as an important factor in the criminal justice chain in the main areas of coordination to combat TOC.
Another aspect that cannot be ignored which Tordelli referred to is the need for cooperation between prison systems. European experience has shown that it is often by means of investigative and intelligence actions carried out within prisons that information and evidence can be obtained to break upcriminal networks, particularly international ones.
Investigations need coordination
The EL PAcCTO model coordinates investigations and activities throughout the criminal chain in the fight against organised crime, which was strongly promoted by Giovanni Falcone and which provides for the involvement of police forces, the prosecution service (which in Italy, has the power to investigate) and the prison system.
The need for inter-institutional and international coordination responds to a demand for strategic prevention and repression of increasingly dangerous TOC. It responds to the exponential growth oforganised crime’s power to act and offend, and its ability to acquire, accumulate and use an ever greater amount of financial resources.
In the specific case of criminal groups that infiltrate and become stronger within prison systems, we need to share data, information, prison intelligence tools, as well as specific regulatory instruments that enable action to be taken in penal centres, and we also need organisational and management methods specific to members of criminal groups in prisons.
The REDCOPEN of EL PAcCTO
For all these reasons, EL PAcCTO has promoted the Prison Cooperation Network of Mercosur and associated countries, REDCOPEN, as a basic tool for regional coordination of strategies to fight TOC and, in practice, for coordinating the flow of information through the exchange of data, the use of platforms, the inclusion of minutes in the database, in order to speed up investigations and ensure they are exhaustive.
During the three years of the EL PAcCTO programme, the need has arisen to form a Latin America/Europe Bi-regional Network of Prison Academies-. To enhance the knowledge that each country produced and to create a network, it is a priority to provide prison officials with the necessary skills to face increasingly powerful, prepared and interconnected TOC and, it is in the interest of the European region to share experiences, good practices and lessons learned so that they can act professionally in the face of the challenges posed by TOC and for which the Network of Prison Academies was created. Italy, France, Portugal, Spain and twelve Latin American countries are participating.
By giving the prison system the importance it deserves and promoting inter-institutional and international coordination, EL PAcCTO continues and will continue to support the collaboration between the European Union and Latin America to effectively combat transnational organised crime, such as initiatives promoted by the Colombian Prosecutor’s Office, specifically in prison matters.