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Life for Bolivian Children in Prison Is Rough, But It Might Soon Improve

Prisoners may take their families to live inside jail. Their wives and kids can share life inside and outside prison. Callampaya, La Paz. Photo by Danielle Pereira, January 2009. CC 2.0. Edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Prisoners may take their families to live inside jail. Their wives and kids can share a life inside and outside prison. Callampaya, La Paz. Photo by Danielle Pereira, January 2009. CC 2.0. Edited by Kevin Rothrock.

Bolivia is possibly the only country in the world that sometimes imprisons children and teenagers with their parents, while the latter serve out sentences for criminal convictions, according to data from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Oficina in Bolivia.

Dennis Racicot, the agency's representative of the High Commissioner, has spoken out against the presence of children and teenagers in prisons—especially in facilities meant for male prisoners:

Señaló que si en la práctica de algún Estado existe presencia infantil en las cárceles porque sus dos progenitores están privados de libertad, se debería tomar en cuenta que como “mínimo” el infante esté junto a la madre hasta concluir la etapa de lactancia, pero no junto al padre, donde, al estar en un penal poblado de hombres, está expuesto al riesgo de abusos y violencia.

He pointed out that, in the practices by any State, there is a child presence in prisons because both their parents are incarcerated, it should be established that “at least” the child should be with their mothers until the breastfeeding period is over, but not with their father, as in a facility populated by men, [the child] is exposed to potential abuses and violence.

The website Prensa Bolivia cites official figures to point out that roughly 2,100 children live in Bolivian prisons.

According to a report by the Bolivian Ombudsman office, the situation is worse in some correctional prisons, where imprisoned men and women share the same space:

Aunque en Bolivia la mayoría de las cárceles tienen espacios separados para mujeres, todavía subsisten algunas en que no hay estas divisiones como las de Montero, Riberalta y Oruro, donde las condiciones de las reclusas fueron similares a las de los hombres.

Although in Bolivia, most of the prisons have separate rooms for women, in some of them there are no such divisions, as in Montero, Riberalta, and Oruro, where the conditions for female prisoners are similar to those for men.

Despite this gloominess, there is also some hopeful news. In November 2015, there were reports about launching of a dedicated space for children who live with their mothers in prison:

El Centro de Orientación Femenina de Obrajes (COF) inauguró cuenta desde ayer con el primer Centro de Atención Integral Pedagógica (CAIP) del país, un espacio de apoyo educativo para los niños […] que viven con sus madres en el reciento penitenciario. El CAIP de Obrajes tiene una biblioteca, sala de informática y jardín para juegos.

The Female Orientation Center of Obrajes (COF) inaugurated the first Center of Pedagogical Attention (known as CAIP) in the country: a space for educational support for children […] who live with their imprisoned mothers. CAIP of Obrajes has a library, a computer room, and a playground.

Bolivia Education [sector] launches centers for children in prisons.

Pedagogical support in Bolivia for correctional facilities.

Children living in prisons will have education in pedagogical centers.

In Bolivia, about 342 teenagers should not live in prison, according to a [new] report.

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