The federal judge of Lomas de Zamora Federico Villena rejected a request from the prisoners of the federal prison of Ezeiza to use cell phones for the duration of the health emergency, to keep in touch with their families when visits are suspended to avoid spreading and for the coronavirus to reach the prisons.
Judicial sources informed Infobae that the magistrate did not accept the request because there are regulations that prohibit the use of cell phones in prisons and because the Federal Penitentiary Service (SPF) and the Ministry of Justice of the Nation took measures so that the inmates maintain contact with their families in this exceptional situation.
First, five inmates from ward “F” of Module 2 of Ezeiza and then the inmates of seven wards of module 3 presented a habeas corpus to allow them to use cell phones. They explained that it is a measure to mitigate the suspension of visits. Also that the public telephones that are in the pavilions are few and do not work and that it is difficult for them to get cards to use them.
The Ezeiza prison is of maximum security and one of the largest in the country. It houses 2,400 prisoners and has an overpopulation of 20 percent of its capacity, according to official SPF data. There the businessman is detained Lazaro Baez. Judge Villena, given the possibility of receiving requests from other inmates of that prison, extended his decision to the entire unit.
Before deciding, he summoned the parties to give their opinion. Lawyers for the SPF and the Ezeiza jail opposed the request. They indicated that measures were taken to ensure that the prisoners continue to contact their families in this emergency situation. The Ministry of Justice of the Nation, on whom the SPF depends, He distributed 14,000 telephone cards free of charge to detainees across the country who are under his orbit and who were going to do it again. Also that the “Family and social link protocol through the video call system” was approved in all prisons. In each unit there will be rooms with computers so that the inmates have contact with their families.
The application of this protocol by the national government implies that the SPF does not endorse the use of cell phones in any of the 35 federal prisons that exist throughout the country.
Prison attorneys added that there are security issues to consider. One is that cell phones are prohibited in prisons since they can be used to commit crimes and that, unlike what happens with public cell phones when making a call, from mobiles there is no warning that communication It is from a prison.
For their part, the Prison Commission of the National Ombudsman’s Office endorsed the inmates’ claim. The co-owner of the Commission, Agustín Carrique, pointed out that the current situation of social isolation without visits in prisons aggravates the situation of inmates to have contact with their families, which is a right that cannot be limited.
Regarding security, the Commission that expressed the opinion that crimes can be avoided if a protocol where phones are registered and times and places to use it are set, which was what was done in the province of Buenos Aires.
For its part, the prosecutor Cecilia Incardona and the head of the Office of the Prosecutor against Institutional Violence of the Office of the Attorney General of the Nation, Andrés HeimThey asked that whatever resolution is taken, guarantees that prisoners have contact with their families are respected.
Judge Villena pointed out that the law prohibits the use of cell phones in prisons and that the measures taken by the Ministry of Justice – the purchase of telephone cards and the application of video calls – are enough to guarantee the inmates’ right of communication with their families .
“The pandemic that we face and the measures ordered as a consequence have surprised us so imminently that it forces us to adapt as quickly and in this sense, I consider that the solution adopted by the Ministry of Justice is timely and reasonable to face to this delicate situation in a context of respect for the stated rights, as well as for the current legislation and regulations ”, Villena argued.
The magistrate did ask the Ministry of Justice to put the video call protocol into operation within 48 hours. “I consider that the virtues of the solution adopted will only be such if they are implemented with the haste that the situation requires,” he explained.
Another solution in the province of Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires prisoners can use cell phones. The guarantee was coming at the request of official defenders for different prisons. But later it was the Criminal Chamber of Cassation of the Province that extended it to the 57 penalties of the jurisdiction.
“In order to avoid subjecting people deprived of liberty in the province of Buenos Aires to a situation of ostracism that, in the context of the current pandemic, a suffering incompatible with the humanitarian treatment demanded by constitutional regulations is important, it is my opinion that it is prudent to authorize the use of cellular telephony for the purpose of maintaining the inmates’ family ties, ”said the Cassation judge. Victor Violini.
The magistrate made reference to the possibility of crimes being committed from cell phones. He argued that it is not the only way that prisoners have to do it from a prison, in the case that they so wish, and that it is the function of the state to avoid it without violating rights, in this case that of the relationship with the family in this extraordinary situation. . “We must maximize our sense of humanity to at least try not to be part of that universe described by Albert Camus, according to which” the worst of the plague is not that it kills bodies, but that it strips souls, and that spectacle it is usually horrible´ ”, maintained the judge.
In the Province, the use of cell phones had the endorsement of the Penitentiary Service. The senior inspector Carlos Suarez, in charge of the San Martín penitentiary complex, maintained that currently the measure “It would contribute to lower anxiety on the part of the population and thus feel the proximity of their relatives” and said that there is a “limit” situation. The Province Ministry of Justice has already established the protocol with the norms for the use of cell phones.