U.S. flag

An official website of the United States government, Department of Justice.

NCJRS Virtual Library

The Virtual Library houses over 235,000 criminal justice resources, including all known OJP works.
Click here to search the NCJRS Virtual Library

Character of Penal Control in Latin America: Sentence Remissions in a Venezuelan Prison

NCJ Number
Criminology & Criminal Justice Volume: 6 Issue: 3 Dated: August 2006 Pages: 289-308
Christopher Birkbeck; Neelie Perez-Santiago
Date Published
August 2006
20 pages
This article examines the administration of sentence remissions in a Venezuelan prison following the enactment of the Sentencing Remission Law of 1993.
Sentence remissions, often called “good time” are deductions to the length of a prison sentence that are awarded after conviction and once the offender is incarcerated. Awards typically involve 1 day’s remission for every day or 2 days served. However, the policy and practice of sentence remissions vary between prison systems. The statutory provisions for sentence remissions in Venezuela were created in the context of a penal bureaucracy characterized by low budgets, low efficiency, and high levels of corruption. This greatly affects the way sentence remissions have been implemented. Rather than being proactive, a passive role has been undertaken which essentially converts remissions into a claims system for prisoners. Remissions become a benefit that must be actively sought by prisoners themselves as opposed to a routine downward adjustment of their release date. This causes an immediate impact on the amount of time served (and the amount to-be-served) which pushes the prisoner closer to, and sometimes beyond the sentence completion date. Time-served in Venezuelan prisons is now highly relative to the offender and is determined by the prisoner’s abilities as a claimant and by the random operation and errors of the penal timekeeping system. In sum, prisoners in Venezuela do not “do time,” they either make or endure it, doing much or little to discharge their sentences and relieve the pains of confinement. This study examined the functioning of sentence remissions in order to draw conclusions about the character of penal control. Specifically, the study examined the characteristics of sentence remissions in Venezuela during the 6 years following their introduction in 1993 under the Sentencing Remission Law. Tables, references