Santiago: An official of Chile's Catholic Church has said jails in the country are like "garbage cans", referring to the overcrowded conditions in most of them.
"Our prisons are perfect garbage cans, where people are treated like human garbage," Alfonso Baeza, a church priest and former vicar of the Pastoral Workers Organisation and the Pastoral Social Organisation, said in a statement released on El Mercurio website.
Baeza said most of the societies want prisoners "to rot in jail like garbage in a city dump".
In an accident that occurred in San Miguel Prison on December 08, when 81 inmates died in a fight followed by a fire, Baeza had to rush to the prison, located eight km from the Chilean capital, and mediate between inmates' families and prison authorities.
"The jails are worse than shantytowns. I think the poorest slum in Chile has better living conditions than our prisons, with the difference that in slums people are free," he said.
"I believe our country is becoming very callous. Even the prison guards live and work as if they were prisoners," the priest said, and again made a call for pardon, but without mentioning cases of human-rights violations.
"Prisoners are of little use to politicians out to win votes. Some gain more popularity by looking really tough on crime," he said.
Chile's jails currently house an inmate population of some 54,000 in an infrastructure designed to hold about 34,000.
First Published: Monday, December 27, 2010, 10:16