• Panama Human Rights

Panama Will Use "Mobile Cells" (Shipping Containers) To Ease Prison Overcrowding.

Updated: Sep 19, 2019



By Yuriel Sagel for the Panama America - Crisis. In all of the country's prisons, the prison population exceeds its structural capacity. The national government is planning to implement a program in the country using "temporary prison cells" built out of shipping containers. According to the director of the Penitentiary System, Diomedes Kaa, the containers would be first placed in the province of Colon, where there is a serious overcrowding problem. He said they would also be used in Chiriqui and La Chorrera, two other areas where there is an overpopulation of inmates. The containers would be used to ease overcrowding temporarily while new permanent prisons are being built. According to him, this comes in response to a study made by the Minister of Government and Justice, Jose Raul Mulino, as an alternative to overcrowding because they can be moved quickly and easily. Kaa said the containers will be designed taking Panama's climate into account, and will meet the necessary safety conditions.

Last week, Ministry of Government advisers traveled to New York, USA, to see first-hand details of how this system works. As at 21 Septemberthere are 11,222 inmates being housed in a prison system that has a physical capacity for only 7,075. Therefore, overcrowding in the country's prisons is currently 4,147.

In this regard, Maribel Jaen, of the Justice and Peace Commission, said that whatever system the authorities implement they should respect the dignity of the detainees and the provisions of Law No. 55 on Human Rights. "They must have water, electricity, and sanitation systems, among others," she said.

Model of Argentina: A similar system is discussed in Argentina to cope with prison overcrowding, called "mobile cells." They are containers or metal structures measuring 18 square meters in total space (6 meters deep by 3 meters wide), with a height of three meters, and they can accommodate four detainees. The design includes steel bars on the front, space for two tables, four benches, and an area designed for toilets and connections for sewage and drinking water. They must be used indoors to protect inmates from inclement weather.

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