The Colombia Ministry of Justice [official website] on Friday announced a new initiative to solve the problem of overcrowding in the nation's prisons. INPEC [official website, in Spanish], Colombia's prison institute, has begun the transfer of 800 inmates [Columbia Reports report] from "La Modelo" prisons in Bogota and Cali to less crowded detention centers elsewhere in the country. Such transfers, along with house arrest for some inmates, were announced by Justice Minister Ruth Stella Correa as a first step in the process, which she also noted will require collaboration with the courts to deal with the longstanding overcrowding problem in certain areas. The Bellavista prison in Medellin, for example, was built to house approximately 2,400 inmates and this year had a population of over 7,700. In addition to the 800 transfers already underway, INPEC plans to move an additional 2,000 prisoners by October.
Prison overcrowding is a common problem across the globe. In June UN Deputy High Commissioner for Human Rights Kyung-wha Kang [official profile] urged [JURIST report] the government of Malawi to address the problem of prison overcrowding and improve the human rights condition in the country. That month Burundi announced that it would also release prisoners to solve overcrowding problems [JURIST report]. In April South Africa announced [JURIST report] that it will issue pardons to 35,000 offenders in order to ease prison overcrowding. In February Human Rights Watch (HRW) [advocacy website] called for the reduction of overcrowding [press release] to improve poor prison conditions in Latin America following a prison fire in Honduras, which killed more than 300 inmates and injured dozens more. In August, Venezuela announced [JURIST report] its plan to reduce its prison population by 40 percent. The prisons in the US are facing the same problem. In May 2011 the US Supreme Court [official website] ruled [JURIST report in Brown v. Plata [Cornell LII backgrounder; JURIST report] to uphold an order requiring California to release up to 46,000 prisoners to address the problem of prison overcrowding.