Plan for Privately Managed Prison Finally Discarded

February 3, 2006

Government officials are negotiating their way out of a contentious plan to contract a private company to build and manage a maximum-security prison in Pococí de Limon on the Caribbean slope.With the negotiation,C osta Rican officials are trying to avoid being sued and paying an indemnification to the U.S.-based Management & Training Corporation (MTC),the daily La Nación reported.

MTC was contracted in April 2002, at the end of the Miguel Angel Rodríguez administration (1998-2002),t o build and manage the $72.8 million prison. Strong criticism of the project emerged the next month when President Abel Pacheco took office. His then-Justice Minister José Miguel Villalobos refused to sign the contract, charging that the prison would cost the government $300 million over two decades (TT, Nov. 8,2002).

Under the Pococí plan,the government had to make monthly payments of $770,000 for the prison s management,La Nación reported.

The prison has since been caught up in court cases and administrative controversy, including the firing of Villalobos in 2002.

Last year,the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court (Sala IV) finally gave its OK to the Pococí prison,but required increased participation of government officials,par ticularly regarding security.

The government officials hopes to reach an agreement with MTC so that the company doesn t file a legal claim for damages against the Costa Rican state for breach of contract for giving up the plan.

Justice Minister Patricia Vega said the state lost interest in the project because the country s prison needs changed; the overpopulation of prisoners has decreased by 1% in part because of the construction of 80 maximum-security cells in the La Reforma penitentiary in Alajuela.

 

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