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Paramilitary counter-insurgent groups rose up to combat this advance, and they too formed a symbiotic relationship with the world of drug trafficking. As a result, in the s, the prisons filled up with guerrillas, paramilitaries and members of drug trafficking organizations, concentrating this volatile underworld dynamic within the prison walls.

Within the corridor, paramilitary discipline was maintained. Every morning they would line up and receive news of combat from the outside world, or be issued their jobs for the day. But discipline was not the only thing the paramilitaries sought to maintain. However, the rivals for the most part observed an uneasy truce, as the patio did not belong to either side.

It belonged to the Cacique, or Chieftain. In the Cacique system — which persists in many prisons today — each patio had one leader, a crown claimed by the prisoner who could best project their authority internally. In some patios, the highest ranking guerrilla or paramilitary would assume the role. Once a patio was under the control of one armed group, the authorities and the Caciques would ensure any new arrivals from their enemies were housed elsewhere. However, other patios saw a blend of prisoners, in which case the Cacique would be the highest ranking member of the group with the most internal manpower and wealth, which in Bellavista often meant leaders of Medellin organized crime networks and gangs.

In the system, the Cacique oversees a sophisticated organization dedicated to two things: maintaining order and making money. At their disposal they have lieutenants, bodyguards, workers and even servants. If the prison authorities want to act in the patio, they must first negotiate with the Cacique.

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The rules governing behavior in Bellavista were extensive and the punishment for breaking them was severe, ranging from a beating to a death sentence. The Caciques also took responsibility for prison rules such as attending the morning headcount and ensuring prisoners were confined to their cells at night. The business of the Caciques, meanwhile, touched every aspect of prison life. Arriving prisoners had to pay for the right to a space to sleep, with options ranging from a tiny patch of floor to luxury cells.

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Those that could not pay would have to find space where they could, such as in a passageway or bathroom. Any prisoner with a business, such as selling water, washing clothes, or running food stalls had to pay for the right to operate. Contraband, especially drugs and alcohol was the exclusive business of the Caciques. Even soccer tournaments in the patio were pay-to-play. The new maximum security wings, which were built in the wake of La Catedral, were initially installed in four prisons. Among the first inmates of these wings were notorious cartel leaders and commanders of armed groups.

Not only did they enjoy a lifestyle of relative comfort, they were also free to run their operations both in and outside of the prisons with cellular phones and through the free flow of visitors.

He had been accused of kidnapping after the FARC left the sick baby of one of their most high profile hostages in his care. Each prisoner had their own private room and bathroom and access to a kitchen to prepare their own meals. They were largely left to their own devices inside the wing and any outside animosities were laid aside. There was this coexistence between the prisoners. This also involved bringing in contraband, including the top of the line cellular phones they used to communicate with their underlings in the patios and their organizations outside.

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The speed and quantity of extradition proceedings has increased progressively since then and many underworld bosses now expect to spend a matter of months in the Colombian prison system before departing to the United States. Some would go, and then more would arrive. Extradition altered the power dynamic in the prisons, especially as it related to the drug traffickers. From the moment they arrived, the clock was ticking for the extraditables. This sapped them of important social capital, helping open the door for other prison leaders to take command. In , the Colombian president announced a new deal for a multi-pronged US aid package.

The program included funding and logistical support for the construction of a series of new prisons and maximum security wings in existing prisons based on US facilities, as well as training for prison staff. The new facilities followed the security first logic of the US prison system and introduced a raft of new security features and measures.

However, the US-style harsh security regimes have proven highly controversial with human rights groups, who claim they have led to prisoner abuse and represent the abandonment of ideals of preparing prisoners to return to society. However, campaigners say the prison has yet to comply with the ruling, and the prison remains open. When Caldas visited one of the facilities he worked on years later, he discovered these stark contrasts are sometimes even evident within the same facility.

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It was like they were two completely different regimes. In addition, any security success the program has had has been undermined by two curses of the Colombian prison system that it has proven incapable of overcoming: overcrowding and corruption. Despite the new prisons, overcrowding has only got worse since the start of the program. By , this had risen to percent, with , prisoners in a system built for 76, While overcrowding made many of the new facilities ungovernable, widespread corruption ensured that in wings with no such problems, the security aims of the prison plan still often fell well short.

A recent surprise raid by the police and INPEC in the maximum security sector busted an extortion ring operating from within the prison and seized cellular phones, tablets, acrylic keys for the doors, weapons, marijuana, and cocaine. Prosecutor Carlos Villamil attributes this to government intervention. With the FARC a weakened force, in a new external process began that would also alter the dynamic for the paramilitaries and ultimately usher in a new era for both the prisons and the underworld: the AUC negotiated their demobilization pictured.

Under the terms of the agreement struck between the AUC and the government, paramilitary leaders were to serve five to eight-year prison sentences, with the top commanders to be secluded in a special detention center.

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Even after the leaders were transferred to normal prisons when the government claimed it had caught wind of escape plans, it rapidly became clear that not only were AUC leaders living privileged lives inside the prisons, they were also continuing to direct the criminal activities of networks of paramilitaries that had rearmed or never truly demobilized following the accord. Within the prisons, AUC leaders maintained armed guards, offices, communications equipment and in some cases an entire support network in the surrounding area outside.

Recordings obtained by Colombian media showed how even the directors of the prisons that held the AUC warlords despaired over their helplessness in confronting the paramilitaries. The rearmed paramilitary networks were suddenly cut adrift from their leadership and to some extent their paramilitary roots. The criminal reigns of many of the leaders of the BACRIM have been short and numerous important figures from their ranks have passed through the prison system.

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As with their predecessors, many have enjoyed the comforts of maximum security wings, from where they have continued to direct violence on the outside and have even brokered criminal pacts with imprisoned rivals, according to media investigations. However, the ever quicker extradition process means their stays in Colombian prisons are transitory, and they are often sent to the United States after a matter of months, limiting their ability to influence life inside and out. In many of the prison patios, the rule of the Cacique remains in place, and prisoners report it remains largely unchanged.

They charge taxes. They have every type of business with the guards, such as telephones, drugs, etc. Overcrowding has made them landlords, and assigning living space has evolved into finely tuned internal criminal estate agency. Meanwhile extortion networks have expanded to include everything from visiting rights to access to medical supplies.

The BACRIM are much less centralized organizations, with local factions operating semi-autonomously and loyal only to the national networks that pay the best. They also maintain fluid alliances with a broad range of criminal structures including street gangs and high-level drug trafficking networks. This fragmentation and regionalization means Caciques often emerge from local criminal structures that may be associated with BACRIM but are not necessarily members themselves. The BACRIM era has also seen new attempts to reform the prisons, beginning in with an attempted overhaul of prison administration.

However, almost since its inception INPEC has existed in a state of near constant crisis and has had 50 directors in less than 25 years , largely thanks to a series of scandals around corruption and incompetence.

Instead, the government created another body to ease the burden and in launched the Penitentiary and Prison Services Unit Unidad de Servicios Penitenciarios y Carcelarios — USPEC which was placed in charge of infrastructure, administration, and logistics. However, the new body has been riven with problems of its own and in a span of two years , it had had six directors. The year after the creation of USPEC, the government declared another state of emergency in the prison system, and the search began for new solutions to the crisis.

Oliverio Caldas was once again called upon to design new facilities, but this time the focus, in line with the latest international thinking, had shifted from security to developing more humane systems focused on rehabilitation and re-socialization. The program will see the construction of nine new medium security prisons designed not only to include ample facilities for productive activities such as work and study programs, and for treatment programs such as for substance abuse, but also to be less environmentally aggressive. The change in approach is out of concern for human rights and the result of new, more long term, thinking on security, says Caldas.

This not only represents a risk inside the prisons but also when inmates leave, filled with resentment at their treatment and corrupted by their time in close proximity to hardened criminals. According to Caldas, the key to the success of the new prisons will be proper classification and division of prisoners. The system must be able to identify the estimated 70 percent of inmates that have excellent chances of being rehabilitated — who will be the target for the new prisons — the 20 percent that will be more problematic, and the 10 percent of hardened criminals that should be submitted to maximum security regimes to prevent them corrupting or exploiting the others.

However, Caldas warns, the new facilities can achieve little if deeper structural issues are not resolved. As Caldas and his colleagues began work on the new prisons, the government also introduced reforms to the penitentiary code with an eye on tackling one of these problems: overcrowding. The law pdf allowed for the release of thousands of prisoners held on remand and commuted sentences for prisoners with certain profiles.

However, as the period for prisoners to claim these releases comes to an end, overcrowding has only got worse during the process, and the percentage of the prison population that is on remand has actually increased to over a third. While construction of new facilities continues, once again, events in the world outside look set to leave a more immediate mark. In late , the Colombian government and the FARC reached a final peace agreement, bringing to a close a war that has raged for over half a century.

The guerrillas have now begun to demobilize in a process that will alter the balance of the Colombian underworld, and the repercussions will undoubtedly be felt in the prisons. Unlike the AUC demobilization, the peace process is not likely to fill the prisons with guerrilla leaders or fighters. As part of the transitional justice deal signed between the FARC and the government there will be a general amnesty for crimes committed as part of the conflict except in the cases of crimes against humanity.

Instead, the biggest change will be the number of inmates leaving the prison and the spaces they leave behind. Instead, the release will likely be one of the final acts of an era the system has already largely transitioned, and another step towards removing political violence as a factor in the internal prison dynamic. However, other changes in the external underworld and security policies currently underway could have more impact. She was released after term limits to hold her expired when the case got caught in a judicial backlog, and she has since been reinstated at the same prison even as prosecutors continue to pursue the case against her.

Internal struggles for power between factions of the Sinaloa Cartel may have led to an increase in violence in western Mexico, the latest example of internecine conflict that has plagued the crime group for years. Between February 5 and February 7, shootings between police forces and members of organized crime groups claimed the lives of 12 people. The new wave of violence forced authorities to take extraordinary measures, and on February 8, schools across Sinaloa were closed after new clashes involving organized crime groups broke out. Fights between members and close allies of the Sinaloa Cartel have been occurring for several years.

The state of Sinaloa has been home to feuds between and within cartels at least since , and the area suffered from a large-scale forced displacement crisis as a result of the confrontations. The arrest promises to further shake the Supreme Court, which has been unsuccessful in electing a president after ten voting rounds, according to Prensa Libre.

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And amid this power struggle, the Supreme Court appears to be a central battlefield for rival interest groups. The latter two entities have successfully confronted corruption in various powerful institutions, including the Interior Ministry , the Social Security Institute and even the presidential palace. Investigation and Analysis of Organized Crime.