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The Penal System

The National Directorate of Social Rehabilitation, a component of the Ministry of Government and Justice, continued to operate the country's penal system in 1989. The García Moreno Prison in Quito and the Coastal Prison in Guayaquil were Ecuador's largest criminal detention facilities. Quito and the capitals of all Costa and Sierra provinces also had municipal jails.

Although the laws called for rehabilitation of prisoners, few facilities had space, staffing, and equipment for education or training programs. One exception, the women's prison in Quito, provided both academic and vocational courses. Some private factories held prison work contracts. All prisoners were expected to work and were paid a minimum wage. One-third of the wages went to the prisoner upon release; one-third to pay expenses while in prison; and one-third to the court to take care of expenses incidental to the trial. During the 1980s, two halfway houses were opened in Quito from which prisoners traveled to jobs and were allowed to visit their homes.

Most prisons were greatly overcrowded, the result of budgetary restrictions and the low priority given prison construction and staffing. As of July 1986, Ecuador had 6,450 prisoners in a system whose total capacity was 2,600. The García Moreno Prison, which was built in 1875 to house 300 and subsequently remodeled to hold 640, held 1,800 prisoners who were forced to share twenty toilets. As of 1988, a new prison was scheduled to open in Quito, which would help relieve existing pressures.

According to the Department of State's Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 1988, "prison conditions are so squalid and brutal that in themselves they represent cruel treatment." Guards reportedly beat prisoners for disciplinary reasons. Notoriously underpaid, guards reportedly could easily be bribed by prisoners who wanted to avoid punishment, to receive improved living conditions, to secure visits, and to obtain drugs.

According to a report by the Special Commission on Human Rights, unhygienic conditions in the prisons were conducive to skin, lung, gastrointestinal, and venereal infections. Prisons had few medical supplies and only sporadic visits by doctors. Again, the Quito women's prison was an exception to this general pattern.

The Department of State reported that guards at the Coastal Prison often mistreated detainees charged with terrorism or subversion. The Americas Watch and Andean Commission of Jurists group confirmed these observations, documenting various forms of guard brutality and the withholding of privileges, such as exercise, sunlight, visits, and recreation. This discrimination reportedly ended in 1987.

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A number of studies trace the relationships between the armed forces and the civilian leadership. John D. Martz's The Military in Ecuador assesses both the 1972-79 military regime and the role of senior officers following the resumption of civilian rule. Osvaldo Hurtado's Political Power in Ecuador includes a concise analysis of the military's attitude toward civilian politics and its strengths and shortcomings while in power. The Military Coup d'état as a Political Process: Ecuador, 1948-1966 by John Samuel Fitch, although based on earlier research, contains still relevant data on the leanings and social background of the officer corps. David W. Schodt's Ecuador: An Andean Enigma treats the role of military figures and the military establishment in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.

Human Rights in Ecuador, a study by Americas Watch and the Andean Commission of Jurists, contains much detail on abuses by the police, particularly in the treatment of political detainees, and on prison conditions. The Department of State's annual studies, Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, describe the operation of the legal system and practices of the police and prison authorities.

Up-to-date reports on the organization and operational status of the Ecuadorian armed forces are scarce. Considerable information, particularly of a historical nature, may be found in the section on Ecuador in Adrian J. English's The Armed Forces of Latin America. The Military Balance, 1988-89, prepared by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, has data concerning weapons systems in the armed forces inventory. (For further information and complete citations, see Bibliography.)

Data as of 1989

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