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Dominican Republic: The Prison System
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Internal Security and Public Order > The Criminal Justice System > The Prison System


The code of criminal procedure also covered the operations of the nation's prison system. The law required each judicial district, or province, to maintain one prison for convicted offenders and another for accused individuals awaiting trial. Provincial governors bore responsibility for the maintenance of these prisons and for their security. The national penitentiary was La Victoria Penitentiary in Santo Domingo; all individuals sentenced to more than two years of imprisonment served their sentences in La Victoria. This penitentiary had shoe, carpenter, tailor, and barber shops, as well as other facilities where convicts could be taught a useful trade. Prisoners able to take advantage of such opportunities received wages for their labor. Police officers ran the nation's prisons. In the late 1980s, the head of La Victoria Penitentiary was a police brigadier general.

In practice, the corrections system received inadequate financing, and it suffered from unsanitary conditions and overcrowding. The government publicly acknowledged this problem in 1988 and announced its intention to develop a solution. As a first step, badly needed repairs were begun on La Victoria. These long overdue measures were prompted in part by a riot at the prison in June 1988 in which two inmates were killed. Reports in the local press cited two conflicting causes of the riot. One version held that the prisoners rioted to protest a move to limit visiting hours. The second explanation, offered by the government, suggested that the violence was instigated by drug traffickers angered by government's pressure on the narcotics trade.

Although the Dominican Republic's domestic situation was much more stable in the late 1980s than that of neighboring Haiti, the potential existed for localized, or even generalized, disturbances. Economic conditions -- inflation, devaluation, food shortages -- usually underlay most riots or demonstrations. Marxist and other radical leftist groups, however, often sought to exacerbate such upheavals in order to discredit the government. This situation placed considerable pressure on the police and the armed forces to respond to civil unrest in a professional manner and to minimize attendant injuries to civilians. Furthermore, this role as the institutional bulwark of elected civilian government was one that the leadership of the police and the armed forces took very seriously, particularly because it constituted their primary mission in the late twentieth century.


As of mid-1989, no definitive studies dealing comprehensively with national security matters in the contemporary Dominican Republic had been published. A general treatment of modern Dominican political life, touching on the military and its place in national life, can be found in G. Pope Atkins's Arms and Politics in the Dominican Republic. The most complete coverage of the history and development of the armed forces is contained in the section on the Dominican Republic in Adrian English's Armed Forces of Latin America. For developments since the early 1980s, the reader must search through issues of the Latin American Report, prepared by the Joint Publications Research Service, and the Daily Report: Latin Report, put out by the Foreign Broadcast Information Service. Current order of battle data are available in the International Institute of Strategic Studies' excellent annual, The Military Balance. The best overview of conditions of public order is contained in the section on the Dominican Republic in Country Reports on Human Rights Practices, a report submitted annually by the United States Department of State to the United States Congress. (For further information and complete citations,see Bibliography.)

Data as of December 1989

Last Updated: December 1989

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Dominican Republic was first published in 1989. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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