Plan for prison ships to isolate dangerous criminals at sea is still in the works, Noboa says

Dec 7, 2023 | 0 comments

Although it was widely criticized by his opponents during the election campaign, President Daniel Noboa insists his plan to send prison ships and barges out sea is a practical short-term solution to Ecuador’s prison crisis.

President Daniel Noboa

“Prison ships are being used successfully all over the world, so this is not a crazy idea,” he said in a Tuesday interview. “Great Britain and the United States have been using them for years to separate dangerous prisoners from other inmates. Ecuador’s prisons are in crisis and the violence inside the walls is spreading outside to our streets. We need immediate action.”

Noboa says the long-term answer involves an overhaul of the prison system and major expenditures to rebuild facilities, reorganize institutional management and rehabilitate prisoners. “This will take years and I was only elected to a 17-month term,” he says. “We are moving ahead with a plan that can be implemented within a matter of months, not years, at a reasonable cost.”

He said the prison ships would be leased and could be retrofitted for $8 million per vessel to house 300 to 400 prisoners.

An illustration released by the presidential press office describes a prison barge currently used in Great Britain for unregistered migrants. Previously, it was used to house violent prisoners.

According to Noboa, the plan is to isolate gang leaders and other violent prisoners on ships. “In the last three or four years, many nonviolent prisoners have been murdered for refusing to join criminal gangs in the prisons. Many of these victims were serving time for non-violent crimes.”

Noboa says his staff is in talks with prison consultants from Europe and North America with experience in prison ships. “We are also working with the team that worked with Nayib Bukele in El Salvador,” he says. “Although our approach to reducing crime will be much different, we are all impressed with the success they have had protecting the public. Five years ago, El Salvador was one of the most violent and murderous countries in Latin America and today it is one of the safest.”

In a poll taken in late October, 75% of Ecuadorians supported Noboa’s prison ship plan.

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