The number of inmates in prisons has doubled since 1999. Photo via Huffington Post.

Following the recent escape and recapture of the Lanatta brothers and Schillaci (aka national panic), attention is once again being drawn to the shortcomings of the current state of the Buenos Aires Province — as well as the national — penitentiary systems.

At the close of December, Buenos Aires Province Governor María Eugenia Vidal announced plans to reform Buenos Aires prisons, which suffer from severe overcrowding and whose workers are underpaid. All of these factors may have contributed to the ease with which three criminals were able to hightail out of one particular prison.

Here’s a quick look at the current situation.

The 55 prisons in Buenos Aires Province, which employ 19,422 service agents, can technically accommodate 27,000 inmates. However there are 32,507 men and women behind bars. This means that there is an excess and overcrowding of 7,000 prisoners (plus another 2,000 who are held in police stations).

Prison cells are barely big enough for one person as it is, let alone two or three.

So, what is Vidal’s plan?

  • raise salaries of prison officers (which Macri has recognized as being “very low”)
  • provide special training for prison guards
  • build three new prisons
  • work closely with the Social Development Ministry
  • standardize basic services such as food, gas and medication
Photo via La Nación
Vidal and her Security minister, Cristian Ritondo. (Photo via La Nación)

In addition to the overcrowding and recent prison break, according to Perfil, these plans have been prompted by poor detention conditions, suspicious acts of collusion with crime and drug trafficking.

Fernando Diaz, chief of the Buenos Aires Penitentiary Service, told press:

“We want to create the best possible conditions for prison guards to carry out their job from the custody of inmates to accompanying them towards effective social integration.”

Let’s recall that brothers Cristian and Martín Lanatta as well as Víctor Schillaci  escaped General Alvear maximum security prison in Buenos Aires Province on December 27th (a feat they accomplished in 15 minutes and armed with a toy gun). They were serving life sentences for the 2008 “General Rodríguez triple crime,” for which they were found guilty of murdering members of their drug trafficking organization who were allegedly planning on ditching the business to start their own methamphetamine manufacturing trade with their former partners’ contact list.