El Salvador has taken tentative steps to reduce its overcrowding. One afternoon, a group of female prisoners hoisted sharp farming tools — not in a fight, but to tend to crops at a prison farm that opened in February. A similar program for men will open this month, sending hundreds of prisoners nearing the end of their terms out of overcrowded jails.
“There was not much to do in the other prison,” said Blanca de Palazos, 46, finishing a six-year term for selling contraband cigarettes. “But here there is plenty to do, and most of us like growing food and being productive.”
El Salvador has also stepped up supervision of prisons. A bank of 30 television screens in the prison agency in San Salvador, the capital, beams images from every penitentiary in the country in an effort to document trouble.
But as one official put it, “Nothing is going to change overnight.”
He was right. A week later, three inmates were killed in a prison brawl.”