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Venezuela: Prohibition of Use of Cellular Phones and Internet by Inmates

(Aug. 25, 2016) The Venezeulan Congress recently passed the Law Regulating the Use of Cellular Phones and the Internet Inside Penitentiaries, prohibiting the use of cellular phones and the Internet in prisons. The Law imposes a penalty of three to five years of imprisonment on anyone who introduces cellular phones or Internet-ready devices in prisons. The penalty increases to four to six years if those devices were made available by officials or public employees. (Gaceta Oficial: Ley que Prohíbe Uso de Celulares e Internet en Cárceles, EL UNIVERSAL (July 19, 2016); Ley que Regula el Uso de la Telefonía Celular y la Internet en el Interior de los Establecimientos Penitenciarios, GACETA OFICIAL No. 6.240 Extraordinario (July 15, 2016).)

The Law is designed to prevent the planning, direction, and perpetration of crimes committed from inside prisons through the use of cellular phones, the Internet, and any voice and data services offered by telecommunications companies allowing coordination and communication with other criminals in the streets. (Id. art. 1.) The Law will apply to all penitentiaries with closed systems, holding inmates already convicted of crimes and those awaiting sentencing. (Id art. 2.)

In order to secure means of external communication for the inmates, penitentiaries throughout the country will install public land-line phones. (Id. art. 7.) The Ministry of Penitentiary Services will also install devices that will block telecommunications signals without affecting the communities neighboring prisons. (Id. arts. 3 & 4.)