Visitors coming to visit inmates in La Joya prison Panamá
Updated: Sep 10, 2019
Many visitors of all ages who came to see loved ones at La Joya facility on a bi-weekly basis were subjected to extremely invasive searches, ranging from a pat-down to a total strip-search, including a full inspection of both passages. This was a totally degrading experience for all, especially for Indian women, some of who were pregnant. During most visits, Indians were racially profiled and segregated from the rest of the crowd for extra screening. This type of racially motivated screening took place on a regular occurrence. It was a totally unacceptable violation.
The primary reception area, where visitors are inspected, is not adapted for persons with disabilities, including the toilets. Transportation is always an issue for the less fortunate who are not able-bodied. For some visitors, it is simply impossible to visit loved ones. Visually impaired, frail, elderly, or the hard-of-hearing are all classed as abled-bodied and treated no differently. They are all treated as animals by the authorities.
The National Police are totally unaccountable to any governing body for the abuses that happen on a daily basis in this area. The public has no recourse in fear they would be refused entry. There are no Facebook or media platforms provided by the state for civilians to complain about the abusive, inhuman treatment suffered by the ones charged with their care.
Many visitors still ran the gauntlet to come and see loved ones despite the barbaric treatment by the National Police of Panama, who need to be held accountable and punished for these in humane and invasive inspections that still take place today, unsupervised by the Defensora Del Pueblo/ Ombudsman.
Women were denied access if they were showing any signs of nursing and given no explanation by the National Police as to the reason. Many visitors had travelled hours if not days to be at the La Joya gates six hours before a guaranteed entry. Most visitors lived far away in rural areas and were financially restricted. They saved for many weeks if not months to make the journey, only to be told to go home with all their items. Of those who did enter, some had items that were prohibited. They were taken from them and then shared amongst the police officers once the visitors had entered the facility. The police had no office where visitors could return and collect the prohibited items when exiting.
The humiliation and degrading treatment is systemic within the National Police. Family members are treated equally to those who have been convicted, with no compassion or respect for their humanity.
Visits from family and friends are imperative for prisoners, as these people are their only lifeline to the outside world. The prisoners depend on them for updates on their judicial process; the state-supplied attorneys only turn up on the days of the hearings and are not interested in building a solid defence. That would take many man-hours, for which they would not be paid extra. Embassies are totally uninterested in their prisoners; they have more pressing events, such as trade deals and investment opportunities.