On 8 April, the first virtual meeting of the COVID Prisons Channel was held with the participation of the focal points of six Latin American countries: Brazil, Paraguay, Argentina, Ecuador, Colombia, El Salvador. From the outset, all showed great interest in the initiative to exchange information on the effect the crisis is having in prisons.
Dr. Carla Ciavarella, director of the office of the Italian Prison Administration Department, who is also the department’s go-to for activities related to the EL PACcTO Programme.
The aim of this first meeting was to share the initial measures taken in Europe, which was the first to suffer the COVID-19 emergency, and to exchange some early recommendations on the management of prisons during the pandemic.
The Latin American countries present proposed the immediate organisation of two other meetings: one on strategies and measures for the prevention of riots and mutinies in prisons, and another on alternative measures and other legal instruments to reduce overcrowding during the emergency.
In the days following the meeting, some countries shared information related to the topics discussed (Colombia, Ecuador and Salvador). They also established bilateral contacts between them.
Prevention of riots and mutinies in prisons
As a consequence of that first meeting, on 21 April the webinar was held focused on the strategies and measures for the prevention of riots and mutinies in the prisons.
Nine Latin American countries participated: Brazil, Colombia, Costa Rica, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, Peru and Paraguay. Also present were the technical teams of the Italian Prison Administration Department and its head of prison intelligence, as well as that of Brazil. Inspector Stefano Saioni, head of the Interpol: Support for El PAcCTO programme also participated in the webinar and showed off the tools they have to search for fugitives.
On the part of Latin America, the Deputy Minister of Justice of Costa Rica and the Deputy Minister of Justice of El Salvador participated, along with the directors of 25 prisons. Vania Bonalberti, responsible for EL PAcCTO at DEVCO, also logged on to take part. The ambassador of the European Union in Brasilia and the co-director of the programme, Juan Gama, sent greetings at the beginning of the meeting. Other representatives of the European Union’s Latin America Delegations were also on hand.
With the aim of sharing good practices and exchanging ideas, the meeting was very active and dynamic. Lessons learned in the implementation of COVID-19 anti-contagion measures in the prison systems of Europe and Latin America were shared. The spotlight was also placed on the impacts that the emergency may have on the infiltration strategies of Transnational Organised Crime.
Expert meeting in the COVID Channel
On 22 April, a meeting was held with some of the experts who have collaborated with the Prison Systems component since the beginning of the programme. The objective was to share the COVID Channel initiative and exchange ideas about experiences during the health emergency. Another goal was to verify lessons learned or useful experiences to transfer them to Latin American countries. The meeting was attended by 50 participants. Among them, the chief of staff for the Italian Ministry of Justice, the head of the Department of Prison Administration, the Secretary General of IILA, the directors of the Programme, experts from the Department of Prison Administration, the National Anti-Mafia Directorate, the Higher Council of the Magistracy, Interpol, Guardia di Finanza, the police forces and the three key experts of the prisons component along with its Technical Unit.
Another webinar on alternative measures to prison and other legal instruments will be held on 5 May. A request from Latin American countries to discuss how to reduce overcrowding during the health emergency. The webinar will be held in collaboration with the component of cooperation between Justice Systems of the EL PAcCTO programme.