El Salvador approved a new set of laws to implement “exceptional measures” to regain control in the country's prisons and crack down on organized crime, which has made it one of the most dangerous countries in the world.
Members of El Salvador's Legislative Assembly voted overwhelmingly in favor of applying a set of extraordinary measures in the prison system, to neutralize the gang leaders. According to the authorities, the leaders have been ordering the killings, extortion and other crimes against Salvadorean citizens from within the prison.
Congress unanimously approved 14 new measures to suspend hearings, restrict movement in prisons, ban visits for one year and concentrate gang members in certain penitentiaries. They also included isolation for the leaders of armed gangs and suspension of cell phone signal outside and inside prisons.
Inmates will also be obliged to participate in rehabilitation and work training activities for one year, according to the new law. During this time, they will be subject to constant supervision and family visits will be reduced.
Misael Mejia, lawmaker with the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, said the new policy “is not the only mechanism” that will be used to combat gangs, adding that the government will submit in the coming days other legal reform “initiatives.”
The new measures will be applied to seven of the 21 prison facilities across the country where gang members are already concentrated, and others will be moved.
According to January and February 2016 figures, homicides have increased in the country by 118 percent compared to the same months in 2015.
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In 2015, according to The Washington Post, over 6,600 homicides were reported in the country, increasing the murder rate to 104 per 100,0000, making it one of the world's most dangerous countries, including Honduras.
Officials have reiterated that the government is not willing to negotiate with gangs, maintaining President Salvador Sanchez’s longstanding rejection of the idea of offering lighter sentences for organized crime in exchange for a gang truce.