Santiago Vázquez Prison (COMCAR), Montevideo

Visited on 26 March 2009

General information

112. The Special Rapporteur was received by the Director of the prison, Comisario Inspector Jose L. Beledo Pérez, and his two deputies. In an open and cooperative manner the Director admitted that everybody knew that “our prisons are terrible”. The prison is the largest in the country and has a capacity of 1,600 detainees. At the time of the visit, 2.768 detainees were held in COMCAR. The major problem was thus overcrowding, as well as a lack of staff. Detainees were held according to classification: in Module 1 (484 detainees) transvestites, transsexuals, homosexuals, and former police and military officers were held. These groups were rejected by the general prison population and needed extra security. Module 2 was a security module with 586 detainees. In total, around 1,000 detainees were  held  under  a security regime. Modules 3 and 4 were general modules. The management could not classify the detainees according to the crime or according to pretrial or convicted status due to a lack of resources. Thus, all kinds of detainees were held together in these modules. First offenders were held in Module 5, in order to separate them from the recidivists. However, some of them might have been detained in an INAU facility earlier. The majority of the detainees in Module 5 were between 18 and 29 years old. A new module consisted of the so-called “barracas”, with large dormitories for around 40 prisoners each. Detainees were transferred there for good behaviour. However, the prison administration had not been able to fill the module because of a lack of detainees with a suitable profile. The barracas had 228 places but there were only 130 to 140 detainees.

118. Within the prison, there were 32 conjugal cells available. The cells could be used upon request. Minor women were only allowed inside if they could prove they were married to the detainee. Homosexual visits were not allowed. The visits were limited to one hour and took place on Tuesdays and Thursdays during visiting hours, between 1 and 5 p.m. The Special Rapporteur noted during his visit that several makeshift tents were being set up on the patio during visiting hours. He was informed by one of the detainees that the tents were used as additional places for “conjugal visits”.

120. At the time of the visit, 484 persons were held in Module 1. The module was divided into two sectors, A and B. Sector A had two floors and sector B had three. On the first floor of sector A, former police officers and former members of the military were kept. On the second floor, there were common criminals. Sector B was reserved for homosexuals, transsexuals and sexual offenders, as well as a few former police officers. According to the prisoners, the food had improved, but was still of poor quality. Sometimes there was no water for one to three days. The module used to have punishment cells, which were not used as such any longer because of the severe overcrowding. The cells were open from 8 a.m. to 5.30 p.m. All cells were severely overcrowded, dirty and run down. There were toilets in every cell, but due to a lack of water they were often not usable.

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