San José, Costa Rica, since 1956
Prisons

Costa Rica court orders better prison beds for conjugal visits

If people get squeamish at the thought of sleeping in hotel beds, image this: Prisoners at La Reforma penitentiary sued for nicer mattresses for their conjugal visits. And the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court agreed.

The prisoners complained in case 15-005871-0007-CO that the mattresses in the rooms where conjugal visits take place are so unhygienic that they “put the health of [prisoners and their visitors] at risk.”

Prison administrators acknowledged that the conditions are, um, less than ideal. Despite agreeing that the mattresses were dangerously gross, the prison had not taken action to make improvements. Administrators claimed there was not enough padding in the budget to improve the mattresses. No date was given for when the resources would be made available.

The Constitutional Chamber, also known as Sala IV, was not impressed. The seven judges noted that the state must ensure that prisoners’ basic needs —health, security and well-being — are met even if they are incarcerated.

“In this context, this court believes it necessary to intervene to guarantee the fundamental rights of prisoners and their partners, as well as protect the conditions of their environment, as in this particular case, the conjugal visit rooms,” read the decision.

The Sala IV ordered the Alajuela prison to improve the conditions in three months from June 10.

No word yet on access to a red shirt to throw over the lamp.

Contact Zach Dyer at zdyer@ticotimes.net

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