Panama Human Rights
Families put in danger at La Joya Prison, as hit-men smuggle guns inside.
Updated: Nov 29, 2019
The distressing images below show how the layout of La Joya prison enables known hit-men a clear shot at families visiting.
The visiting area in La Joya is outside, under a simple roof covering. This area is surrounded by the prison blocks housing inmates. Visitors, consisting of family, children and friends, are easily visible to the inmates from the balcony areas and windows and are required to wear vibrant red tops so they are easily identifiable.
Map of La Joya Prison
Below is a prisoner overlooking the 'Family Visiting Area' in La Joya, with clearly, a direct line of sight.
Being able to see family members of inmates would not be cause for concern in many prisons, however, La Joya is renowned for having corrupt staff and prisoners are often caught with phones, drugs and weapons. See this news report for more info on one of the causes of corruption within the prison.
Above: confiscated items found in La Joya
It is possible in La Joya prison to pay hit-men to kill people inside, such as the case with Jairo Anel McClean Benson - see the article by TVN2 on his assassination here. Should someone request the killing of the family of an inmate, this would be totally possible from within the prison walls if the family are visiting.
The image below shows another clear line of sight to the visiting area. This picture was taken whilst standing at the bottom left corner of Building 2 (See the map above).
Here is the same visiting area but from the west side of Cell Block 2, the picture is taken from the 2nd floor.
This photo was taken from Building 4, directly in front of the visitation area.
According to sources inside the prison, the cost for contract killing starts from as little as $500 up to $2,500 for the murder of a family. The money for these killings is wired in using Western Union via prison guards or a police commando, or on some occasions attorneys. One of the main money laundering mules in this scam was the director of La Joya, Rolando Lopez, who received 10% commissions for the smuggling of all illegal items into the prison.
Considering the number of inmates within the prison - and with the understanding that each inmate would have to give funds to officials for daily essentials such as toilet paper, water and hygiene products - the amount of money the prison was making was substantial. 477 people were held in just Building 6 alone in La Joya. Assuming each person spent $50 a week on bribes (likely the bare minimum in order to survive) $23,850 per week would be brought in, $95,400 per month. Furthermore, many of the inmates had drug and gambling addictions, so their bribes would be considerably more than this. Drug lords often wired in via Western Union amounts in excess of $3,000 at a time.
Newspaper 'The Critics' ran a story in 2017 on a prison guard who was caught with over $10,000.00 whilst working inside the prison.
This is all made worse by the fact that the hit-men inside the prison are able to bribe the prison guards to give them lists of all the names and national identification numbers of visitors, as well as their relation to the prisoners. Pictures below were taken secretly after prisoners gained access to this information. All the while the families are under the belief that they are protected by the prison guards.
Illicit money transfers are still going on to this day. Funds were sent into the Grand La Joya from the United Kingdom on 14 December 2017, showing that the financial illegality is still taking place by the prison guards and the National Police under this Varela presidency. Follow this link to further see systemic money laundering.
Pictured above the aftermath of a prison shooting.
Below a homicidal inmate gives an officer a haircut using a Gillette razor; this is the only police officer charged with the care of 476 inmates.
Disclaimer: The time and date stamp bear no correlation to the real-time event due to no means of programming the smuggled recording device.
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