Prisons badly overcrowded

The prisons are 6,000 inmates over capacity.


A lack of health care and delays in legal proceedings are some of the problems facing Panama's prisons, which are badly overcrowded.

There are 17,070 prisoners in the system, which has a capacity for only 11,000.

Ellis Ríos, of the Ombudsman's Human Rights Oversight Office, explained that visits to prisons during 2016 verified that prisoners have limited access to health services. One of the reasons for this is a lack of reliable transportation.

He added that transportation issues also cause delays in hearings and judicial proceedings.

He also stated that more than 60 percent of complaints by prisoners to his office are for these issues.

He stressed that in some prisons such as La Joya and La Joyita, which house the largest populations, there are infrastructure problems such as water leaks and lack of recreation space.

Penitentiary System Director Mario Chan acknowledged that "there is an overcrowding problem," but noted new facilities are under construction in Colón and Chiriquí to address the issue. They should be open this year.

Minister of Government Milton Henríquez, in a report to the National Assembly, said another problem is a lack of guards, as there are only 900 custodians for the 17,000 inmates. This leads to poor working conditions and problems such as the smuggling of contraband.



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