|a) Testimony of Francisco Ramón Adorno, former inmate at the Center
The witness was incarcerated in the Center, where a record was kept with the particulars on every inmate there. Before being moved to the Center, the witness went through the Public Prosecutor’s Office, as an order for his detention had been issued. Inmates at the Center were segregated according to those who had criminal records and those who did not; inmates were not segregated by age, by reason for detention, or by convicted inmates as opposed to inmates awaiting or standing trial.
The facility out of which the Center operated was inadequate, as it did not provide sufficient space. There were no individual cells; instead, the facility had cellblocks measuring approximately 5 by 12 meters. Each cellblock housed nearly 30 people. Those inmates who slept on beds, slept two to a bed. Those who didn’t have beds slept on uncovered mattresses. The relatives provided them with sheets and pillows. As there was no janitorial staff, the cells and the outside areas were clean only if the inmates cleaned them; any cleaning had to be done with water, since inmates were not supplied with cleaning agents and materials. The air at the Center was polluted and the cellblocks had a foul odor. The lavatories with latrines had no doors and were located inside the cellblock. Only one shower was open for the 30 inmates, who therefore had to bathe by turns. The State did not supply the inmates with the personal hygiene items needed for good health and cleanliness. They were not given clothing and had to wash what clothing they had. There was a ceiling light in the middle of the cellblock, and two rather small windows with bars.
The food was very poor while he was in the Center. It was always “beans,” which at times were infested with worms. The inmates themselves had to take turns cooking.
On Tuesdays, Thursdays, Saturdays and Sundays, he was not allowed to leave the cellblock. Since those were visiting days, only those who had visitors were allowed out. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays, each cellblock had a half hour of recreation in the morning to play soccer.
For “discipline,” guards took inmates, in handcuffs, to a dark room that they called the “torture chamber.” It was “beneath the wall-less shed. There, the guards suspended the inmates upside down and beat them [...] and forced them to stand on their hands.” They left them like that until the guard shift changed. He had been in that torture chamber.
There was not much violence among the inmates, just quarrels and fighting for sport. He heard that there had been rapes before he came to the Center. The authorities used the method of “discipline” described earlier to prevent such rapes.
There were some ten guards who treated the inmates “like trash” and told them “they were no longer part of society or humanity.” Inmates at the Center were not taught a vocation. While they did make Articles out of straw to sell, materials had to be supplied by visitors. A normal day at the Center was to eat breakfast at 6:00 a.m., lunch at noon and dinner at 5:00 p.m. Their recreational time consisted of just one half hour. The rest of the time they were in the cellblock.
Telephone calls were not allowed at the Center; only visits. There was a library and a school, so that those who wanted to study could get out of the cellblock for fifteen minutes in the morning or fifteen minutes in the afternoon. One had to be accompanied by a guard when going to and returning from school. In short, the Center did not help them in any way.
There was a physician at the Center to treat the inmates. However, he did not have sufficient medications; all he had on hand were throat remedies. On one occasion a psychologist was called in. Teachers worked with different cellblocks on different days.
The witness was in the fire back in 2000. He sustained burns on the arms and on the back. He was asleep when the fire broke out in the cellblock, and the “plaster” on the ceiling caught fire. The heat was tremendous and the smoke blinded him; he had difficulty breathing. The inmates were screaming, because everything was on fire. The ceiling “plaster” fell. One inmate, Elvio Núñez, died right there, because he fainted and the ceiling collapsed on him. The guards just watched and fired their weapon so that no one would escape; that mattered more to them than saving the inmates. The inmates themselves began fighting the fire. They had to use wet blankets because there were no extinguishers. By the time anyone helped them, the fire was almost under control. Only one guard opened the door. After the fire it was said that a television set had exploded and a mattress caught fire.
Because of the fire, the witness was transferred to the Burns Center. However, the hospital did not follow through with his treatment. Finally, his mother bought the remedies herself, which she did by selling some of her possessions. His mother incurred considerable expense because of the witness’ wounds. His arm has still not healed. He doesn’t like to think about the fire.
He was tried but never convicted. His public defender visited him every 15 days or so. The witness has been imprisoned three times. The first was for three months. The second time he was released when alternative measures were ordered. His most recent incarceration was at the Tacumbú Prison. Because he had a criminal record, they planted marijuana on him to have him thrown in jail again. His case is moving very slowly.
The witness has been marked and persecuted because he has a criminal record. Before his most recent imprisonment, he was working as a shoemaker; he did nothing to be in prison.
He asked the Court for his freedom.
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