Chile, Panama and Salvador are the three Latinamerican countries with the highest number of imprisoned criminals per 100.000 of population, according to a report from the United Nations Latinamerican institute for crime prevention and treatment of delinquents, INALUD.
Chile has a ratio of 310 per 100.000, followed by Panama, 275 according to the report released in Panama City by Elias Carranza, head of ILANUD.
The data refers to 2008 and has El Salvador, Uruguay and Brazil among the top five with 258, 231 and 226 imprisoned for every 100.000 of population.
At the other extreme is Bolivia with 85 followed by Guatemala, 88, Paraguay, 100, Ecuador, 118 and Nicaragua, 120.
“Crime law is made to solve criminal actions but when you have over 50% poverty, we can’t solve all social problems appealing to criminal law”, said Elias Carranza.
ILANUD chief argued that the unequal distribution of wealth and the gap between rich and poor is one of the main causes of crime in Latinamerica and rejected that the increase in criminal cases and insecurity can only be attributed to the “loss of values”.
He supported his argument with the examples of Guatemala and the US which have capital punishment but also the highest rate of killings in the hemisphere.
“With capital punishment or more severe punishments we’re not going to reduce criminality; we want to improve society, the community overall and for this we need a sensible coherent justice system”, pointed out Carranza who proposed a more rational use of preventive imprisonment and punishments.
Panama’s ombudsman Ricardo Julio Vargas also present at the launching of the ILANUD report said that the country currently (2009) has “386 persons imprisoned for every 100.000, the highest in the continent”.
This has another angle: Panamanian jails capacity is overcrowded well far beyond the 120% considered the limit for a proper rehabilitation of prisoners, which is the main purpose of incarceration, said Mr. Vargas.