Human Rights NATIONAL

Preventive detention and trial delays mark Chilean prison system

The head of the prison ombudsman office presented stark numbers. Many defendants remained in jail without trial for longer than the legal limit. And a sizable number was facing charges related to pandemic restrictions.  

Carlos Mora Jano, the head of Chile’s prison ombudsman office, provided a report on judicial proceedings that kept ultimately innocent citizens locked up for over two years, far exceeding the legal limit.

According to the report, published last week, over 310,700 cases were submitted to the ombudsman’s office in 2021, related to over 15,300 people in preventive detention. Although the latter figure represents a drop of 16.4% year-over-year, Mora said time spent awaiting trial has skyrocketed beyond the legal limit, with 122 defendants not being tried for over two years. These individuals were deprived of their liberty for no good reason, Mora said.

Also, around 121,340 suspects were acquitted after trial, the highest number since the procedures were reformed. The report said that 55% of those acquitted were suspected of violating pandemic-related public health restrictions. 

“The ombudsman’s office has repeatedly warned that an excessive use of preventive detention can become an early sentence for thousands of people who – eventually – will end up sentenced to non-custodial sentences or who will not receive any sanction as they are being acquitted of all charges,” Mora said. 

 

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