c) Testimony of Raúl Guillermo Ramírez Bogado, journalist The witness was working as a journalist for the newspaper Última Hora. In his testimony, he indicated that there were any number of versions of how the February 11, 2000 fire started. He also testified about the conditions under which the inmates at the Center lived. He wrote a number of newspaper Articles on the subject.
d) Testimony of Jorge Bogarín González, former judge The witness was on the bench from December 1995 to April 2001. The prison situation in Paraguay was and is “deficient” and unique, inasmuch as the prisons are administered by the Executive Branch, specifically by the Ministry of Justice, with some supervision by the Supreme Court.
The witness visited the prisons, including the Center. As a result, he had contact with the inmates there. He spoke with them to get their stories and to find out whether they were receiving any professional care.
He found the inmates at the Center living in subhuman conditions, owing to overcrowding and the unhealthy conditions in which they lived. At the time of the fire, the Center had close to 200 inmates. It was known that many infectious-contagious diseases like tuberculosis, syphilis, and even AIDS were circulating at the Center. Also, there are no records or statistical data on the inmates, the crimes they allegedly committed and the length of their sentences. All this made it impossible to fulfill one of the purposes of punishment, which is to rehabilitate the inmates for society.
The most common crimes of the inmates at the Center were robbery, theft, as well as some homicides or aggravated assaults. There was a high rate of recidivism, with the trend being toward the commission of more serious crimes. In the case of some inmates, the time they spent in the Center amounted to the minimum for the crime with which they were charged; when that time was up, they were released without the judge ever knowing whether the they were guilty or innocent. Then, too, some inmates had served their sentence but remained incarcerated because they did not have legal counsel or their order for release never came.
Paraguay does not have laws regulating these kinds of breaches and violations, even though the reform of the penal code has introduced options like fines and alternative penalties for the less serious offenses. Until there is sweeping, in-depth reform of the prison laws, inmates will continue to be incarcerated in subhuman conditions, without knowing their sentences. The result will, as a rule, continue to be the same: i.e., they will be unable to re-adapt to society because they do not have the psychological help to survive what they have had to endure.
It is difficult to know how long, on average, the juveniles were incarcerated, because there are no figures or records in prisons in general, much less at the Juvenile Reeducation Institute in question.