k) Testimony of Ana María de Jesús Llanes Ferreira, magistrate
The witness is a judge with the Court for Enforcement of Judgments, which began operating in February 2001. The functions of this particular court are set forth in the penal code and the code of criminal procedure, and in the Constitution, which provides that the purpose of sentences is rehabilitation of the convicted person and protection of society.
As a judge for enforcement of criminal judgments, she was present when the July 25, 2001 riot at the Center happened; she assisted the inmates and ordered transfers to facilities where they could receive medical attention and to other centers of confinement. Transfers were also ordered to prison facilities in the interior and even to Emboscada prison, while other centers better suited to house the juvenile inmates being transferred were reorganized. Her decision to order juvenile inmates transferred to adult prisons was because at the time there was no other center of confinement that had the infrastructure needed to accommodate the minors. However the situation of those inmates has been monitored. The witness made her visits in the company of forensic physicians, psychologists and social workers. The transfer was the proper measure and the State had an obligation to do it.
Before the riot occurred, inmates were being transferred to the Itauguá Education Center. They were selected on the basis of behavior. The program carried out was based on a list of 40 inmates who could be transferred. It was suggested that the inmates be classified into those who had been convicted and those who were standing trial or whose trials were pending; another factor considered would be the type of crime. Under the plan, inmates suffering from some illness or requiring a certain type of treatment were to be sent to the proper place. Also, more and better trained prison guards were needed, as were mental health professionals, psychologists and social workers, since the staff at “the penal facility” is inadequate.
The witness put together a schedule of visits to various centers where the minors were sent to make a record of the conditions under which they were living. She filed reports with the Supreme Court containing suggestions and recommending certain needed adjustments that could be made to the Ministry of Justice and Labor.
While serving on the bench of the court for enforcement of criminal judgments, the judge has received and continues to receive complaints of mistreatment alleged to have occurred at the Center and then later at the Itauguá Education Center. In such cases, the court has summoned those in charge of the centers, as well as the prison guards named in the complaints. The records of the proceedings are then sent to the Public Ministry for investigation of the case and subsequent punishment of the guilty parties. In fact, she has issued summonses for the Minister of Justice and Labor and the Deputy Minister to appear in court, in response to complaints that the court received about abuse, meager rations, a need for mattresses, medical care and the necessity of relocating some inmates to treatment centers.
The procedure established under the new criminal justice system is an improvement, as the judge presiding over the preliminaries in a case will no longer be the judge who tries the case. Previously, the proceedings were not public, as they are under the new law. The penal system for juvenile offenders still has problems with certain procedural matters and with application of certain legalities such as, for example, “probation officer, probation, and application of the rule of evidence on opportunity.” The witness has not seen the socio-educational measure provided for in the code, implemented in practice. The assistance that public defenders provide leaves something to be desired.
As for her experience with application of the new criminal justice system and the new code of criminal procedure, the witness believes that it is not producing the desired result, particularly with regard to the objective of the punishment, which is rehabilitation of the person convicted. Currently, with recidivism on the rise, work is being done on projects that seek to fill gaps or correct shortcomings. However, the juveniles who have benefited have been rehabilitated and rejoined society. She has also had good success with juveniles who are granted temporary releases to go to jobs.
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