Argentine prisoners stripped stolen cars in jail, report finds
BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (Reuters) -- Argentina prisoners ran a workshop
strip stolen cars inside a federal jail and paid wardens who smuggled them in
drugs, according to a prison service document quoted by a top official on
The government is trying to track down wardens implicated in the report,
was prepared in late 1998 but has only recently come to official attention, said
Criminal Policy Secretary Patricia Bullrich.
"On obtaining this report not only did we send it to the courts, but we
internal investigation and are going to be taking decisions about people who are
still working for us if we can verify the information," Bullrich told local radio.
She said she was horrified by the possibility that wardens could have cooperated
in a stolen car scam that used criminals as crooked mechanics inside the huge,
maximum-security Caseros penitentiary in Buenos Aires.
The grim reputation of Argentina's prison service -- long notorious for
rape and mutiny inside its overcrowded jails -- was further darkened in April
when a judge told how a prisoner had been let out by guards on a mission to kill
him in return for a promise of early release. The anonymous report, which was
originally shelved, incriminated more than 20 guards, Bullrich said.
"This has come out of the Penitentiary Service itself, which is providing
information, and from a lot of people who want to stamp out corruption," she
The document described how warders charged $20 for prisoners' relatives
smuggle in cocaine, and $10 for drugs in pill form. For a little more money,
warders would pick up the drugs at a nearby bar and smuggle them into the
prison themselves, according to the local daily Clarin.
For a fee, prisoners were allowed to choose their cells and provided with
phones. Guards were often drunk and absent from their posts.
The government launched a purge of its prison service in April, removing
officers, after allegations that guards had let inmates out for robbing excursions.
Judge Alberto Banos began investigating the prison service after three
supposedly doing time were caught in 1998 in a Buenos Aires restaurant holdup
in which a policeman was killed.