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Randall Antonio Zúńiga-López (left) General Director of the Judicial Investigation Organization, Pablo Bertozzi Calvo (center), Director of the Penitentiary Police  and Ned Swann (right), a spokesman for INL,  at the prison accreditation ceremony at Radisson Hotel in San José. /  Prisioners at the Reynaldo Villalobos Jail in Alajuela Province.

- Photos via U.S. Embassy and Casa Presidencial -

U.S. accredits prisons in Costa Rica

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Published on Monday, March 18, 2024
By the A.M. Costa Rica staff


The United States government, through its Embassy's Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement (INL), issued international accreditation to some jails in Costa Rica given by the American Correctional Association (ACA).

According to the embassy, the goal of accreditation is to guarantee that Costa Rican prisons comply with current correctional methods, give legal protection to the institution and assure the good treatment of inmates and the well-being of its staff.

"Our goal is to strengthen the prison system, increase criminal justice capacity and professionalize the prison system, using prestigious accreditation, with international standards, to alleviate prison capacity problems that hinder the functioning of all stages of justice: investigation, arrest, prosecution, incarceration and reintegration," said Ned Swann, a spokesman for INL. "The U.S. Embassy is proud to contribute to this joint effort."

Accreditation entails preparing an individual record for each jail, conducting a three-day inspection by ACA auditors, submitting a report and appearing before the ACA's Accreditation Commission.

Costa Rica's Judicial Investigation Organization (OIJ) now has 11 ACA-certified prisons, located in the provinces of San José, Heredia, Alajuela, Puntarenas and Limón. The goal is by 2027, all 36 jails in the country will be accredited, added the embassy.

The Migration Police was the first to certify its jails with ACA, a procedure that concluded in August 2021 and will be renewed in August 2024. The Penitentiary Police of the Reynaldo Villalobos Jail in Alajuela Province is planned to be certified before 2025.

To achieve accreditation, these prison sections had to make a variety of changes, including establishing jail access controls, procedures for providing medications to prisoners with chronic illnesses, developing outdoor or recreational activities and caring for the LGTBQ+  population.

The current American Correctional Association (ACA), formed in 1870 as the National Prison Association, is the oldest organization dedicated to prison inmates and personnel.


What have you heard about expats sentenced to jail in Costa Rica? We would like to know your thoughts on this story. Send your comments to news@amcostarica.com

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