The prison system crisis is yet another challenge in Ecuador’s fight against organised crime. Violent clashes between rival organised gangs have been escalating progressively throughout 2021. By the end of September, more than a hundred people had died.
Therefore, the Government of Ecuador requested the coordination and support of international actors working in the country. One of these is the EU programme, EL PAcCTO, which has been working since 2018 to strengthen the National Service for Comprehensive Attention to Adults Deprived of Liberty and Adolescent Offenders (SNAI) against the infiltration of organised criminal groups. A delegation from the Prison Systems Component of EL PAcCTO travelled urgently to Quito from 11 to 15 October for meetings with officials from the country’s institutions to coordinate an emergency response. The mission was in response to a request from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Mobility of Ecuador and the Delegation of the European Union in Ecuador, regarding the country’s prison crisis. During the visit, the delegates met Minister Bernarda Ordoñez, Secretary of Human Rights, and Lieutenant Colonel Bolívar Garzón, Director of the National Service for Comprehensive Attention to Adults Deprived of Liberty and Adolescent Offenders (SNAI), before who presented strategic short, medium and long term recommendations to address problems in the prison system of Ecuador.
The deputy coordinator of the prison systems component Paloma Casado and the project technician, Claudia Gatti, also participated in the inter-institutional meeting called by the National Court of Justice on 14 October, in which the Inter-institutional Commission for the Prison Crisis was formed. The commission will propose regulatory measures to improve prison management, increase prison control and prevent recurring riots and violent events. Among them is a review of National Social Rehabilitation System and the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Procedure Code regulations and alternative measures to prison sentences. With the Ministry of Government, EL PAcCTO also pledged to support coordination between the Police and SNAI, particularly in crisis management matters.
EL PAcCTO provides urgent technical support from to the Government of Ecuador to address prison issues
An action plan has also been created to respond to the prison crisis. EL PAcCTO will provide technical assistance to both the Technical Social Rehabilitation Body – at the request of the presiding Human Rights Secretariat – and the Inter-Institutional
Commission for the Prison Crisis by engaging local experts to support Ecuadorian institutions on operational tasks. European experts will also be appointed according to the technical needs that arise.
In addition, experts have already been identified to help review the regulations of the National Social Rehabilitation System and the Comprehensive Organic Criminal Procedure Code to streamline administrative and judicial procedures that will help to relieve social rehabilitation institutes.
Later on, the Inter-Institutional Commission will focus on making progress in two priority areas of work for EL PAcCTO and Ecuador: increasing the application of alternative measures to imprisonment and the formation of a Prison School.
EL PAcCTO ratifies its availability to support Ecuador’s work teams with national and international specialists and other inputs, based on protocols in place with Ecuador since 2017 and with other European and Latin American countries that can serve as a technical and operational foundation for the improvement of the national prison system.
Improve the Data System and Prison Intelligence
The EL PAcCTO delegation that travelled to Ecuador also had a meeting with the director and SNAI officials to identify priority areas for intervention in the short, medium and long term. As the main conclusion: work will be undertaken immediately to improve the data system for more efficient management of the SNAI.
In addition, after a meeting with the National Police, the need to improve the SNAI prison intelligence area was confirmed. EL PAcCTO is helping to organise workshops on crisis management and riots to strengthen both institutions and extend cooperation.
EL PAcCTO is still helping to strengthen SNAI’s skills through cooperation networks in prison areas of which Ecuador is a member. They are the LA/EU Bi-regional Penitentiary Academies Network (RAP) and the Network of Penitentiary Cooperation of MERCOSUR – REDCOPEN.