Chavez - Venezuelan prisons need overhaul

Other News Materials 13 July 2008 01:39 (UTC +04:00)

President Hugo Chavez called for an overhaul of Venezuela's prisons on Saturday, saying inmates often wait too long for their cases to be heard.

Chavez said his government will form a task force to transform the prison system. He complained to the Supreme Court president, Luisa Estella Morales, that inmates shouldn't have to wait two years or more for decisions.

"How is it that two years pass and there isn't a decision?," Chavez said during a televised speech, referring to the case of one female inmate in the audience. If "new courts have to be created, it will have to be done."

Venezuelan inmates often wait years without a sentence while the overloaded courts get to their cases.

Violence is also rampant in the country's overcrowded lockups. The watchdog group Venezuelan Prisons Observatory says that last year 498 inmates were killed.

Chavez said the prison system must be "transformed from the roots." He spoke during the opening of a new prison in the northern town of Coro, which the government calls a "penitentiary community" and is equipped with craft workshops.