.- The deaths of seven inmates in a fire at a police station in Pergamino, Argentina has brought renewed criticisms of the “inhumane situation” experienced in prisons in the country.
On March 2, seven people died inside Police Station No. 1 in Pergamino in an incident ending with a fire that was caused, according to preliminary information, by a fight between the prisoners.
In their statement entitled “Where is your brother?” the National Secretariat of Prison Pastoral Care invited “everyone to become aware of this inhumane situation that so many of our brothers live in, and we make an urgent demand to those directly and immediately responsible: ‘Don't put off actions that cannot wait!’”
The secretariat expressed its sorrow to the families and renewed its “commitment for life” in addition asking that “God in his great mercy may grant us the gift to discover every person as a brother and act accordingly.”
“We cannot remain indifferent. These are seven lives taken away by the fire, they have names: Sergio, Federico, Alan, Franco, John Mario, Juan Carlos and Fernando Emanuel, they have families, they have histories, they are from our homeland,” the statement said.
According to reports, a fight among the prisoners broke out and led to mattresses being set on fire. The firefighters arrived late on the scene, and seven prisoners died.
However, the secretariat of prison pastoral care said, “We can't just stop at a simplistic account of what happened” and “much less can we think…'seven less thieves.' With shame, much grief and indignation we want to ask forgiveness for expressions like that.”
“In such a tragic event, there are many questions that have been waiting for answers for a long time, they require urgent decisions and concrete actions.”
“Even when there are so many overcrowded prisoners and in inhumane conditions in the police stations, how can it be that they are not prepared for this? This reality has been going on for some time and it is increasing even though it has been repeatedly pointed out as inadmissible and therefore prohibited,” the statement said.
“Police stations are not a suitable place for long term detentions, far from minimum standards,” it continued. “Police stations don't have the preparations and the requirements demanded by the needs of a prison program.”
The prison ministry secretariat reiterated that places of detention must protect life, “preserve and maintain psycho-physical integrity,” and have adequate sanitation, potable water, places for eating, resting, and access to education, among other things.
“Can it be admitted that there is no emergency protocol for situations like these, knowing that it is a public place, a police station, and even more so where there are people imprisoned under the responsibility of the state?” the secretariat said.