Independent of the identity of Honduras’s next president there will be significant problems for them to overcome. Even with the progress that’s been made in reducing violent crimes over the past few years, Honduran authorities will eventually have to deal with their prisons, housing thousands of individuals guilty of various crimes and who have variously severe sentences. How will Honduras’s leaders, both the greenhorns and the more experienced career politicians and bureaucrats deal with the conditions inside the prisons, once reportedly under the control of the inmates themselves?
As we prepare ourselves for the transition from one administration to another and quite likely an unusual transfer of power it’s important that we ask what the nation’s emerging leaders would like to do and what sort of a country they will work to build through the creation and empowerment of new bills, and new governmental institutions. Personally, an institution we’d like to see is a government committee solely focused on ensuring that reformed convicts can leave prisons and successfully & peacefully integrate into civilian society outside of Honduras’s prisons.
This hypothetical institution would have multiple objectives but its initial primary objective would be to fill Honduras’s prisons with professionally trained guards, competent and uniquely trained educators specializing in educating both troubled youths and adult criminals, as well as therapists who want to work with, treat, and create profiles of Honduras’s captured criminals to provide them with the mental health care they need and to discover what causes a criminal in Honduras to lapse back into criminality and work to help those who want to live better lives as much as possible. It’d also work to build connections with Honduras’s business community to ensure that rehabilitated criminals can find work in the days after they leave prison while incentivizing Honduran businesses that boldly choose to hire former inmates and eventually working with banks to get loans approved for former inmates so that one day they can become home-owners and live the sort of lives many of them might have once believed were only possible for gang leaders and for delinquent organizers. By finding, training, and utilizing those brave and compassionate enough to work in Honduran prisons this institute would hope to provide a sustainable and peaceful solution to the inevitable power vacuum that will appear in Honduras as cartels, gangs, and other organized crime groups face the fury of Honduras’s police & military and of a Honduran populace determined to see justice enacted upon drug lords and other types of criminals.
We believe that retaking control of Honduras’s prisons completely and dismantling existing bands of criminals in them by coordinating such extensive operations with both the military and the police as well as existing prison security guards is a vital first step to ensuring that prisoners can one day re-enter civilian society as reformed individuals. Following this retaking of Honduras’s prisons the new institute mentioned previously could enter the prisons and begin identifying prisoners who seem receptive to rehabilitation efforts and focus on them first until other prisoners realize that this isn’t a half-hearted effort but rather a genuine change affecting prisons nationwide. By the time this institute would begin releasing rehabilitated prisoners to civil society it would have established connections with business owners in various different industries and hopefully have thoroughly encouraged those leaders to hire the first newly released former prisoners, and monitor them as well as provide support guards and the counseling needed to integrate successfully into Honduras’s civil society and not the lawlessness of Honduras’s prisons, even now. Retaking control of prisons will also help ensure those embarrassing situations of “Pechocho” and the multiple escapes that took place from April 28th until May 11th don’t happen again.
Bringing Honduran prisons under control is a vital task necessary to genuinely and permanently make the country safer. Creating a culture within the prisons that both makes rehabilitation and reintegration possible and encourages rehabilitation and reintegration is a crucial move that will eventually stop the violence that is rampant throughout parts of Honduras. Capturing but not rehabilitated criminals is not a sustainable solution to make Honduras more peaceful, it’s just a temporary one that pushes the problems off for a few months or even a few years. It also doesn’t help the families of criminals or make it so that their communities are better off because eventually they’ll be back and without help, it’s entirely rational to assume they’ll engage in criminal acts again and thus be dragged back into the prisons if they are caught at all. Rehabilitating prisoners can actually help rebuild lives, improve communities, and reduce crime. It’s time a Honduran institute seriously pursues the goals of rehabilitation and reintegration of prisoners.