By Gladylis Flores.
Additional reporting by Carlos Camacho in Caracas.
In the State of Bolivar, there is no prison just for women. The law enforcement remands female prisoners to overcrowded makeshift jails, according to the figures of the Venezuelan Prison Observatory for December 2020.
This makeshift jail can be any structure, from a police precinct to regular apartments owned by a local government. Specific prison infrastructure is absent. Sometimes they are adjacent to schools or main thoroughfares, posing a risk to neighbors and passersby alike. Half of all of 80,000 plus Venezuelan inmates are in those makeshift jails. Bloody fires, riots, and breakouts are common. Inmate violence is also higher in the makeshift jails; they are badly overcrowded, and the fight for space and other resources is constant and more fierce.
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“Women deprived of liberty are among the most marginalized in the prison system, and their fundamental rights are violated. Every day we see how women continue to enter but do not leave the prisons,” OVP regional coordinator Luis Manuel Guevara explained to El Pitazo.
In Bolivar state, the Vizcaino Police Coordination Center in San Felix and the Agua Salada Detention Center in Ciudad Bolivar are the two places where women are held.
But these centers are not adequate, OVP reported, as they do not have the physical conditions for a prison: they are small spaces, without access to drinking water, and without enough bathrooms. These spaces were created as preventive centers, where suspects could only spend 48 to 72 hours.
One of the major criticisms about these spaces is that they are guarded by the male and not female officials, as established by international standards. This violation lends itself to the abuse of female detainees.
“I got detained for a week at the Cicpc, and we could not sleep at night, only during the day, because at night, the officers would enter the cells and try to abuse us. On weekends it is worse because they drink and come in drunk and threaten us,” a former detainee who preferred not to identify herself for fear of reprisals told El Pitazo.
OVP reports that this situation repeats every day. Women are threatened by officials who tell them that they will be moved to detention centers far from their homes if they do not agree to have sexual relations with them or forbid them to visit. In general, female prisoners are subjected to what Venezuelans call “Psyco-terror,” a form of psychological torture, the expert explained.
No access to food or health
Relatives take care of the daily food supply to cook in the prisons for the women prisoners. The same applies to water for consumption, which must be brought by their relatives.
“In Bolivar, the responsibility is direct with the Bolivar State Police and not with the Ministry of Penitentiary Affairs, because they provide support to the ministry. So there are big failures concerning food, health, drinking water, among others. The State is responsible for providing the three meals under the nutritional standards,” said Guevara.
According to the information by OVP, if a woman in prison has a medical condition, her family must bring her medicine. In any case, the officials are in charge of calling the paramedics who do not take them to health centers.
The State must guarantee them timely medical attention and daily and menstrual hygiene implements, but this is not fulfilling. They get allowed to bring two sanitary pads daily and go only twice a day to the bathroom for their hygiene.