• The San Juan Daily Star

Vargas Vidot blasts political parties for skipping prisoner death hearing

Independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot

By John McPhaul

The independent Sen. José Vargas Vidot criticized the Popular Democratic Party (PDP), the New Progressive Party (NPP) and the Dignity Project party for failing to attend Wednesday’s hearing on the death in prison of Shannel Colon.

“Not a single senator from the Popular Party, or the New Progressive Party, or the Dignity Project attended this hearing. Not even a single one. Apparently, the interest of some in life is limited to when one has not yet been born. Today, another woman is reported dead at the women’s institution. What is going on in the Department of Correction that no one raises an alarm about deaths in prisons? So many natural or unnatural deaths, which are nothing more than murders, suicides, overdoses, should lead the Governor of Puerto Rico to pay special attention to that agency and the services that that agency contracts, such as the physical and mental health services of Correctional Physician,” said the senator.

From the year 2000 to 2022, more than 1,200 people have died in prison. About 650 of them died of natural causes and almost 370 died unnaturally, Meanwhile, 230 cases of people who died in prison during those 22 years are awaiting investigation. This data emerged during the public hearing we had on Shannel’s death in prison.

“What are they going to wait for? That another lawsuit be filed like Morales Feliciano? That a thousand more people die? That they put it in a federal trusteeship, like Juvenile Institutions? With its silence and inaction, the constitutional duty to rehabilitation is nothing more than a hollow refrain; an empty promise from a government that cares more about taking away rights than safeguarding them,” said the senator.

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