Recognizing the need to harmonize services and treatment of its prison population, the government of Honduras has increased the funding allocated to prisoner services – such as medical and psychological care, education, legal assistance and social support – to achieve more effective rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners and detainees.
Until recently, without the necessary financial resources, local penitentiary authorities have struggled to liaise effectively with institutions at the national level or coordinate with health and justice systems.
“Prisoners suffer the consequences of these shortcomings,” commented a representative of Pastoral Penitenciaria, a program of the Catholic Church that provides legal counselling, support and basic training to prisoners in San Pedro Sula. “They don’t participate in court hearings. They don’t know who their public defender is. They miss medical appointments. They don’t get access to specialized treatment. The list goes on. As a result, the prison environment itself creates detainees who are apathetic, aggressive and prone to relapses.”
IDLO has been collaborating with the National Penitentiary Institute (INP) on improving access to justice for prisoners, fostering dialogue between various institutions and developing regulations. By standardizing the work and functions of the committees in charge of developing personalized rehabilitation and reintegration plans, so-called ‘Interdisciplinary Technical Committees’, IDLO is supporting better coordination of prisoner rehabilitation services.
An operations manual developed by IDLO tasks the Committees with, among other things, establishing systematic procedures for service delivery in the penitentiary system and increasing awareness of procedures. Each penitentiary is meant to have its own permanent Committee composed of a set number of roles including doctors, psychiatrists, nutritionists, paediatricians, gynaecologists, psychologists, teachers, lawyers and social workers.
"It is now obligatory for the penitentiary system to have doctors, legal counsellors, social workers and psychologists who directly contribute to the treatment of people deprived of their liberty." - German Mcniel, National Penitentiary Institute
“We hope that all detention facilities will gradually start filling the positions they are committed to by law,” said German Mcniel, Deputy National Director at the INP. “It is now obligatory for the penitentiary system to have doctors, legal counsellors, social workers and psychologists who directly contribute to the treatment of people deprived of their liberty.”
The government has taken actions to improve the infrastructure of the penitentiary system, and the budget increase for personnel recruitment in the Committees shows that there is an interest in better rehabilitation. A number of organizations are providing direct assistance, legal support, religious activities and training for inmates and governmental officials within the penitentiary system.
The annual budget allocated to prisoner services provided by the INP was up by 28% in 2017 compared to 2016, with a six-fold increment for the Interdisciplinary Technical Committees. This follows an overall trend of the INP’s budget increasing over the past years. To optimize and improve services, IDLO is also helping to define regulatory frameworks for the role of civil society based on a law approved in 2012 by the INP.
As part of a five-year program funded by the U.S. Department of State, IDLO is working to improve access to legal aid services and develop rehabilitation and reintegration services for detainees and prisoners in Honduras. By enhancing the legal response, IDLO’s program aims to increase communities’ confidence in the justice system and their ability to access justice, and ultimately contribute to the reduction of violence in the country.
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