Freedom within a Model Jail

Freedom  within a Model Jail

within a Model Jail

Rapa Nui calls… invites… from its remote location in the Pacific Ocean, at nearly 4,000 km. (2,500 miles) from the Chilean port of Valparaíso. The people wave from the coastline and the mute stone giants magnetized and wrap themselves in their mystery. But, although this is a unique place, there are people who have not been able to escape the long arm of the law and for which they have lost their liberty. Yes; because a prison exists even on Easter Island. Lacking severity and hidden within the lovely green landscape, it was conceived in such an efficient form that, to our eyes, it seems a model institution.
[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]
First Lieutenant Christopher Ibañez feels very comfortable at the head of this institution of justice. Professionally he is an engineer, but he left his position as Regional Director for Prevention of Risk in Valparaiso and took on the job of Gendarme of the Easter Island penitentiary in June of 2015. “Life is much more tranquil here, with more time for the family”, explains this pleasant man of 30 years of age. He is married and the father of a 7-year-old with another on the way. “The Gendarme Service was set up in 2016. Before that it was the Carabineros (National Police) who had to take care of all those who were sentenced by the court. What was considered the jail back then was simply a room 3 by 7 meters (10 by 23 feet). Today, the physical space has grown considerably. In an area 60 meters (200 feet) wide by 80 meters (260 feet) long, there is one section for men and another for women with rooms that have 2 beds and a bathroom. There is a workshop for making crafts of wood and stone and a sales room where the crafts can be sold to the public. There is an open, roofed area where the prisoners can have a fire pit and can sleep outside in the open air if they want. They also have a vegetable garden.”

The prison complex is set up to be self-sufficient. In spite of its small size, it is adaptable for all types of prisoners. It has 15 uniformed civil servants and another 5 professionals (social workers, a psychologist and administrative personnel). Nonetheless, between the realities of the Chilean continent and that of Easter Island, there is a small, but major difference. The Easte Island Law 16.441, in its articles 13 and 14, allow lowering the minimum sentence directed by Chilean law for sexual crimes and some basic for the people who are born on live on the Island. For example, if a person is found guilty in any part of Chile, the minimum sentence is five years and a day, whereas in Easter Island, this minimum is immediately lowered to three years and a day. In the Chilean system of justice, anyone found guilty of a crime with a minimum sentence of three years and a day can accede immediately to alternative punishments, such as a conditional remission, nighttime seclusion or controlled freedom.

According to Ibañez, these benefits are slowly being eliminated. In the past, the Islanders lacked education and understanding of the law, but today that has been overcome. “The young people are well informed and act consciously. The most common crimes are sexual misdemeanors and marijuana trafficking. Nonetheless, delinquency in Rapa Nui has diminished. Currently there are 7 prisoners, tried and sentenced, in the penal system and 13 in the open system, which offers alternative penalties such as controlled parole and PSBC or community work. For the moment, the prisoners are all men; delinquency is fundamentally a male problem. On the other hand, house arrest is a job for the Carabineros, not the Gendarmes”.
[bsa_pro_ad_space id=3]
“A typical day for a prisoner is to rise at 8:30 in the morning. They must wash, dress and form ranks. Then they get breakfast and, between 10 and 12, they can work in the shops with the machines. At 1 p. m., we have lunch (a concessionaire brings it). There is a recess until 3 and then they go back to work until 5:30. They have to clean up their work area and then have supper at 6. There is no dining room. They all eat in their cells, where they have a television, DVD, films and other comforts such as a small pantry, a tea maker, an electric grill. After this time, they aren’t allowed out. The prisoners have visiting days on Thursday and Sunday from 9 to 1 and from 3 to 5:30. They can also receive the local people and tourists who are interested in their crafts, which they are authorized to sell in the sales room from Monday to Friday with the same schedule.

The rooms are lined up along a hall. One of the small rooms is filled with wood working that covers all the walls. This is the room of José Manuel Tuki, considered “the King” of the prison population. Almost 3 years ago he received a sentence for homicide (he hit a man with a bottle, which resulted fatal) and previously he had been in court for lesser crimes, such as inter-familial violence and non-payment of child support for his 4 children. However, he also worked here when he was a free man, teaching crafts to the prisoners. He was the one who started the crafts workshop 11 years ago under an agreement with the municipality. He’s not unhappy here. Recognized as a fine artist, his work is numerous but of high quality and has allowed him to earn a fair amount of money. “People who I trained are now working outside as craftsmen…” states Tuki. For the future, with great vision, he has plans to install a crafts museum.

Another resident in the prison is the young Cristián Ramírez-Mariqueo, an ethnic Mapuche who has been living for 5 years on Easter Island. He is serious with a somber look about him. He was sentenced to 3 years and a day for rape and has recently completed one of those years. He’s well adapted to the prison and works in the crafts shop, but yearns to recover his freedom and move to Santiago.

Under an organized and efficient system in a verdant landscape with views to the sea, the Rapanui prisoners are paying their debt to justice and the society. They have spiritual counseling and many local personalities come by to offer talks and conversation. For many, the jail is considered as a college where each prisoner can learn, work and sell his crafts, coming out better prepared for life than when he went in.

[bsa_pro_ad_space id=1]

Related reports:

Interview with Kazuhisa Shibuya

Interview with Kazuhisa Shibuya

Ambassador of Japan in Chile “My primary goal is to demonstrate that the Japanese people are with you.”Mayor Pedro Edmunds Paoa and Japanese Ambassador Kazuhisa Shibuya inaugurated the Comprehensive Care Center in Rapa Nui. The center, funded by the Japanese...

The details of the next Tāpati after the Covid 19

The details of the next Tāpati after the Covid 19

Te tātou 'ōro'a he Tāpati Rapa Nui 2023Mai te toru ki te ho'e 'ahuru mā ho'e mahana o Hetu'u PūThe details of  the next Tāpati 2023 after the Covid 19By Camila Sandoval Photos by I. Municipalidad de Isla de PascuaThis celebration, which values the cultural heritage of...

Rapa Nui – The Mystery Lives

Rapa Nui – The Mystery Lives

Rapa Nui, the land of mystery and living history, where you can experience the natural and cultural wealth in one of the most beautiful and intriguing places on our planet.

About The Author

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *