The government proposal would generate savings of $ 46.9 million in fiscal year 2022. (horizontal-x3)
The government proposal would generate savings of $ 46.9 million in fiscal year 2022. (Teresa Canino)

In the next five years, the Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation would transfer some 3,200 inmates to private prisons in the United States.

The measure, included in Governor Ricardo Rosselló Nevares recommendations in the revision of the Fiscal Plan, implies that close to 30 percent of the prison population would be in US prisons.

The expectation is that transfers will generate savings of $ 17.2 million in fiscal year 2019. The amount would gradually increase to reach $ 46.9 million in fiscal year 2022, the fiscal document states.

Yesterday, requests for additional information to the Department of Corrections were not answered.

Meanwhile, experts in criminology and social work warned that this massive movement of inmates could cause problems in their rehabilitation process.

Hayrinés Calderón, of the Association of Social Workers, said that this type of transfer has occurred on several occasions since the 1990s.

She explained that many of the prisoners who arrived in US jails faced barriers in their works and socialization because they did not speak English. She added that distance from the family caused by transfers also delays progress in rehabilitation plans. "People who visits inmates do not move with them," she said. 

"I know that people in prison due to crimes related to drug trafficking ask to be far away for their safety. But increasing transfers to 30 percent of the prison population, probably without the consent of the inmates, I suspect could be seen as a violation of civil rights," said, meanwhile, criminologist, José Raúl Cepeda.

He also questioned whether the transfer of so many inmates can generate the savings projected by the government. He indicated that, even if keeping a inmate in a US prison is cheaper, there are costs of transfers not only for inmates, but also for the personnel who, by law, must evaluate and monitor their progress.

"If we look at the administrative issues of the penal system, which will attend to these processes, such as the evaluation of bonuses for work done, custody reviews, and evaluations of the Parole Board ... These are aspects that, some way or another, mean that you transfer personnel from Puerto Rico to the US or that the inmate has to be transferred to Puerto Rico. These are expenses that are going to be generated, which makes us wonder whether it is really a measure of saving or not," said Calderón.

Meanwhile, independent Senator José Vargas Vidot stressed that the Fiscal Plan was already taking $ 45 million from the Correction budget.

"It is a measure that has been thought purely considering a useful element of dollars and cents, and there was no thought to the implications involved in removing 3,200 inmates. They would not only be punishing them, but they would also be punishing their families," he expressed.

Vargas Vidot stressed that the rehabilitation of an inmate depends to a large extent on the supporting structures he has. Therefore, distance could reduce the chances of success of the process and "cut off the social reinsertion routes to the inmate.

"The vast majority of inmates try to repair the damage they did and a way to achieve that is, somehow, keeping an eye on the upbringing of their children. This, for example, would be interrupted," assured the independent senator.


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