Friday, December 3

What has happened to make it happen again? A reflection on what happened in Lardero

We really like our work. At the same time, as we believe in what we do, this reflection is personally and professionally necessary for us. In the penitentiary, as in everything, the decisions that are made are appropriate on the basis that they are considered and in accordance with the data available at the time of adoption.

If a decision turns out to be negative, the easy thing is to classify it as inappropriate afterwards. If, in addition, as in the case we are addressing, it fully addresses what matters most to us, it seems that nothing in the system that supports it is valid. The guts, the emotions, undoubtedly incite us to the clean slate, to put an end to all the previously built scaffolding.

However, feeling is easy, and after a reasonable time, what is imposed, both on the agents involved, and on society in general, is to reason. With this, we do not exclude our responsibility, the responsibility of the system –both the penitentiary, as well as the extra penitentiary–. With this, we encourage its improvement. However, we fear that this improvement goes just in the opposite direction from the spillage of the media noise these days. In this regard, just a few notes.

First. From a criminal point of view, regarding the conviction. It has been said that the case confirms the need for a reviewable permanent prison (PPR), which is paradoxical, since the alleged perpetrator had served a prison sentence comparable to the PPR. After more than 20 years of uninterrupted compliance, he had agreed to conditional release, which under the PRPD regime would be his review. Contrary to what is widely defended, we sincerely believe that the case shows that not even the previous execution of an eternal sentence can serve by itself as an inhibiting effect on the commission of new crimes. Furthermore, in terms of control and containment, the PRPD does not add anything new to the penal system that we already have.

Second. From a prison point of view. Regardless of who weighs, and weighs on us, we sincerely believe that the system has acted normally. It is normal for a treatment board to propose something and for the directive center to decide otherwise, being technicians both the members of the first body, as well as the colleagues who value the proposals that are made from the prisons and make the final decision. Likewise, it is normal for a prison surveillance court to assume the inmate’s arguments against the administration and it is normal for a provincial court to correct it. In the same way, it is normal that the moment comes when the supervisory bodies give in to the weight of the facts: advanced state of compliance and good response to the reintegration measures applied. It is a balancing act typical of the difficult decision to be made.

Third. Despite what has been said, when something like what happened happens, the feeling of failure is difficult to avoid. But as we said at the beginning, there is no use settling for the emotional response. Let’s try to go further. In our country, the social involvement in controls and resources once the sentence ends or it is reviewed (the case of the PRPD), is null.

The penitentiary institution is alone in the face of danger and finding the necessary social network to support and continue the work carried out within the prison becomes complex, if not impossible. Especially, it goes without saying, with profiles like the one discussed here. That a person in a controlled confinement regime and later restricted third degree, go to a probation with greater controls, but to use, it may be what is not enough. There must be a complete, comprehensive community intervention, aimed at the safety of society and the control of the convicted person, but which includes the necessary therapeutic and treatment support as well.

In short, an intervention that continues the work carried out inside a closed center. For this, it is not enough, as has also been said, with the mere application of a probation that, basically, does not contemplate many different measures from those associated with the conditional release that was already being executed. For this, it is necessary to go beyond the current state and change the mentality. The focus of prison action is the closed institution, but, in certain cases, it comes to nothing if it does not find support and continuity once the convict returns to the social environment.

Room. About absolute security. As a society, we seek absolute security. We do not like to live with the uncertainty generated by the lack of control of certain variables that affect us. Human behavior is one of them. Today, it is impossible to know the future intentionality of any person, even if we know their past, their present situation and the future verbalizations that they carry out. This reality is unaffordable for many and leads to argue that any failure that occurs is the result of malpractice. For this reason, in cases like the present one, the predominant reaction, including that of the operators involved in the execution of the prison, is to eliminate the possibility of their repetition. The above with consequences.

On the one hand, the social shock that these events have produced will undoubtedly delay the social reincorporation of inmates in prison who have worked under the circumstances that led them to the crime and are prepared for it. On the other, the social distrust that is generated in the face of prison work, leads to the elucubration of new draconian measures (the PRPD is an example of this), to avoid this possible repetition. All this, despite the fact that the system works (let’s look at the rates of exits and violation of permits, or the rates of recidivism after compliance) and that the ideal of absolute security, let us be convinced, is impossible.

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