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HRW calls for reduction of Latin America prison population

Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] on Thursday called for the reduction of overcrowding [press release] to improve poor prison conditions in Latin America following a prison fire in Honduras. The fire occurred this past Tuesday and killed more than 300 inmates while injuring dozens more. According to HRW, Honduras prisoners suffer overcrowding which leads to poor prison conditions including inadequate nutrition and sanitation, all leading to the tragic result earlier this week. Americas Director at HRW, Jose Miguel Vivanco [official profile], stated, "The tragic deaths of hundreds of inmates, one of the worst incidents of its kind in the region, are ultimately the result of overcrowding and poor prison conditions, two longstanding problems in Honduras." According to local press, Honduras has 24 prisons with a total capacity of 8,000. These prisons currently hold 13,000 prisoners, well over capacity.

The US also has prison overcrowding concerns, particularly in California. Last year, the US Supreme Court ruled [opinion, PDF] in Brown v. Plata [Cornell LII backgrounder] to uphold an order requiring California to release up to 46,000 prisoners [JURIST report] to remedy the state's overcrowded prisons [JURIST news archive]. California submitted a plan [JURIST report] to comply with the court's order, but the state's Legislative Analyst's Office has concluded that California is unlikely to meet [JURIST report] the Supreme Court's two-year deadline. According to the International Center for Prison Studies [official website], the US has the most prisoners per capita [text, PDF] in the world.

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