A.M. Costa Rica
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San José, Costa Rica, Monday Edition
May 29, 2017, Vol. 17, No. 105
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Ministerio de Justicia y Paz photo  
Cecilia Sánchez, the justice minister, gets portrait drawn by prisoner.
Fair becomes fight between minister and legislators
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

After some controversy led to a sparring match between members of the legislative assembly and the justice ministry, a craft and culture fair was moved from the Bulevar de Asamblea Legislativa to the Centro Nacional de Cultural in San José.

Fairs and vendors and protests are a common sight on the cobblestone walkway that runs from Parque Nacional to the judiciary headquarters with the legislature’s chambers between.

This particular event, however, has a more interesting element: the people setting up shop also happen to be convicted prisoners serving sentences for varying crimes.

The fact that prisoners were going to be in close proximity to the chambers of the legislature sparked some staunch opposition from a group of deputies.

One of the more prominent voices to that opposition was the libertarian deputy, Natalia Diaz.

According to the Ministerio de Justicia y Paz, the prisoner’s artisan fair is still scheduled for Wednesday at 9 a.m. with the location simply changing.

The incident produced a strong condemnation from Cecilia Sánchez, the justice minister.

“The right of our population to have opportunities of insertion and respect for human dignity is undeniable,” she said.
“Faced with all sorts of prejudice and stereotypes, it will be unavoidable. We will have our fair because there will always be good sense in other people and other institutions that do understand this is a human rights issue.”

“Perhaps the challenge is not to open doors, but to open minds, especially with those who should be called and who are called to build a more inclusive society,” she stingingly added.

Ms. Sánchez then added examples such as a 7-year-old approaching a juvenile delinquent and asking him if he wanted to paint together at the last fair held two weeks ago in the Parque de Alajuela.

She even goes with her own example in sitting down with a prisoner with a penchant for murals and talking with him as her likeness was drawn, the justice ministry said.

“We have to defeat prejudice if we want a society that is more just and inclusive,” Ms. Sánchez said.

Only 45 percent trust judicial system, report says
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff

The goal to provide a better justice system is still a work in progress in Costa Rica, despite higher investments and higher amounts of recruiting, according to the second Estado de la Justicia report.

The second state of justice report is made with the collaboration of the Estado de la Nación program and in agreement with Poder Judicial.

The report finds that the amount of access to the judicial system is one of its greatest strengths. This is based, in part, on the amount of cases received each year.

According to the statistics provided, an average of 600,000 new cases are received out of a population of roughly 4.5 million.

However, when analyzing the number of cases received by each of the 15 judicial branches across the country from to 2010 to 2015, a clear decrease in the complaints filed can be spotted.

While the total number of cases filed in 2010 exceeded 650,000 a year, in 2015 that figure stands just above 600,000.

The decline in litigation coincides with a decline in the confidence citizens have in the judiciary. In 2004, 60 percent of people surveyed claimed to trust the system. 11 years later in 2015, only 45 percent did.

This occurs at a time when the country's per capita expenditure on judicial management has increased from $32.2 per person in 2000 to $361 in 2015, the study reads.

Also, the number of judges rose from 15 per every 100,000 inhabitants in 2000 to 27 per 100,000 people in 2015. In the case of prosecutors, the figure increased from 5 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2000 to 12 in 2015.

Although the increase in the amount of resources for the administration of justice grew significantly, both its territorial distribution and the productivity of the different judicial districts shows severe inequalities.

Such is the case with the Third Judicial District comprising the capital of San José. The report stated that the third district solves 196 cases per official each year.

Meanwhile, the First Judicial District of the Zona Atlántico shows the lowest productivity, with 81 cases solved per officer.

In regards to workload, the investigations of criminal cases are the ones who top the list, followed by judicial collection and traffic cases.

Estado de la Justicia emphasizes that, although there is a direct relationship between the amount of budget allocation and the number of cases admitted, this is not always true.

The Third Judicial District of San José received 7.9 billion colons and served 47,000 cases in a year.

The Second Judicial District of Guanacaste and the First Judicial District in the the Atlantic zone received 8.2 and 8.1 million colons respectively. Those districts served 23,000 and 27,000 cases.

The report points then out another glaring shortcoming of the judicial system in the small amount of sanctions relative to an increasing number of complaints.

The analysis reveals that only 15 percent of the complaints that come before the court of judicial inspection end up in an effective penalty essentially meaning that there is little punishment and penalization once sentencing is done.

With cases of tax inspection, that percentage becomes 18.

With the office of internal affairs for the Judicial Investigating Organization, that drops to 13 percent and 27 percent in the disciplinary unit for public security forces.

The report indicates that the judiciary should also pay close attention to its deficit in the pension plans for its employees.

There have been rumblings and grumblings among some judicial workers and a mismanagement of the situation could lead to a halt on all the services, the report gloomily said.

Another recommendation calls to redefine the roles of the Corte Supremo’s magistrates, which seldom have to deal with chores that could be easily delegated in other departments.

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