Photo: Juan Duque / ICRC Colombia

Colombia: Rights do not end behind bars

The issue of overcrowding in national detention facilities continued to increase during 2023 and reached 24.5 per cent at the end of the year. This means that the prison population exceeds capacity by nearly 20,000 people, which has a negative impact on access to basic resources, as well as judicial rights and guarantees.
Article 03 April 2024 Colombia

In addition, there is a shortage of prison staff, both security and technical-professional staff, and a lack of strategies aimed at their welfare and training. This hinders the dignified and humane care of detainees and prison management that complies with interna- tional standards. In addition, it affects the safety of staff, inmates and visitors.

Despite the authorities' efforts to reduce the number of detainees in temporary detention centres, they continue to suffer prolonged stays in inadequate conditions and under the charge of personnel who are poorly trained to meet their needs and requirements.

The lack of a preventive approach to health in prison settings, coupled with insufficient access to essential services such as water, food, hygiene or sufficient space and ventilation, jeopardize the provision of timely physical and mental health care for people deprived of liberty. In particular, the lack of a comprehensive approach for people with mental health disorders, people addicted to drugs and/or users of psychoactive substances further affects their health and thus increases their vulnerability.

We therefore welcome the initiatives aimed at improving conditions in detention centres, as well as the efforts of the Colombian government to humanize the prison system through better prison management, better access to justice, and promoting knowledge of and respect for international standards related to the dignified treatment of the prison population.