On 23 September, the International Service for Peace (SIPAZ) attended a meeting of the Organization of Relatives of Prisoners of Ocosingo (OFPO) held in Ocosingo.
Some men and women, children and elderly met, all sharing the same reality: that they have “one of their” relatives imprisoned in the Ocosingo prison. The relatives’ ability to begin organizing themselves has allowed them to better comprehend the situation of each of the prisoners, to come to know that they all face the same problems and sufferings, as well as begin to find solutions.
During the meeting which SIPAZ attended, “the history of our organizational process [was remembered], and we presented the documentation of different problems we have encountered related to the imprisonment of our relatives–social, economic, procedural–and the imprisonment conditions that have also affected us as relatives: poverty and marginalization, alcoholism, division, disruption of the social fabric, false accusations, unjust detentions, torture, fabricated charges, deficiencies in investigations, discriminatory treatment, absence and/or negation of translators, required signatures, disrespectful inspection upon entering prisons for visists (particularly as regards women), mistreatment of the food originating from communities that with sacrifice and effort we have brought (especially pozol). Neither the prisoners nor their relatives have the means to come to know and study prison rulers or the norms that regulate visits to the imprisoned.”
Emphasis was placed on the problems encountered by relatives upon entering prison for visits. Women are inspected disrespectfully, making them feel rather bad. They and the prisoners in general are not familiar with the rules. Another problem that was discussed is that food is not allowed to be brought in. Clearly much is implied in the buying, preparing, and carrying of such foods. It is never explained why part of the food must be left at the entrance, nor is it known what happens to such food. Relatives also mentioned the recurring threats regarding the transfer of the imprisoned as a privileged means by which to exercise pressure.
The members of this organization, found in 2008, have begun also to investigate the different cases, visiting crime-scenes, talking with relatives and communities. They have found many irregularities, mistreatment, and injustice. In a systematic fashion, no translators have been provided for those who do not speak Spanish. There are a great deal of prisoner testimony asserting that they do not know how to read or write and that they have under pressure signed their sentences without knowing the contents of such.
Not only those who are imprisoned suffer; relatives also have difficulties in continuing on due to the absence of husbands, sons, and fathers. They do not succeed in sustaining themselves economically, and many children cannot attend school and/or feel increasingly isolated due to stigmatization in their communities. In this sense, the creation of an organization of relatives of prisoners, made up of persons of different religions and organizations, gives them strength to continue struggling and demanding justice for their prisoners.
For more information (in Spanish):
OFPO communiqué, September 2010 (30 September 2010)