While awaiting extradition hearings I recently spent approximately one month (February 24 2014 thru March 24 2014) in jail/prison/penitentiary called the Penitenciaría Nacional de La Victoria (commonly referred to as just La Victoria).
According to (and I categorically and absolutely agree) the website DR1.com, “In the Dominican Republic anybody can easily land in jail for the simplest of crimes and the system is sometimes used by the government and police officials to punish people for personal vendettas. By some estimates 80% of prisoners in jail have not yet been sentenced. Many have no arrest records since they have been sent there by powerful people and on a notice even the President can send somebody to jail without a warrant. The disparities and inequalities of the Dominican jail system are many and in this country you could easily spend 10 years for stealing an egg or spend only days for murder, depending on who you are. In the Dominican Republic who you know is the ticket out of any situation. If you have committed a crime in the Dominican Republic, or have been arrested on a whim, for no real purpose, calling friends in high places. Usually, with a phone call from a friend who is a politician, a known businessman, a high ranking police officer or military personnel or someone who has a lot of connections will get you out of trouble. Only if the crime you are being charged with is related to drugs will you not receive any help.”
NOTE: The DR1 website is a news service, offering news from the Dominican Republic. It’s also a popular hangout for expats from America, Canada and Europe as well as Dominicans who have traveled abroad.
In the Dominican Republic there are an exceedingly immense number of laws and legal procedures, almost disproportionate in number when compared to the population and land size of the country (the state of Texas is more than 14 times larger in land size). They also have Constitution which is very similar to ours in the United States.
Who enforces the laws and legal procedures? This is where things become complicated and cumbersome…
The salary of a Dominican Policeman is less than $200 US Dollars per month. Moreover, here in the Dominican Republic employees are not paid by the hour, they are paid a monthly salary. Most jobs in the here have a six (6) day work week and typically a work day is 9 to 10 hours.
Employees are paid twice a month, by electronic check to their bank accounts (if you don’t have a bank account or if you are in debt to the banks…BIG PROBLEM).
In the private sector the paydays are the 15th and the 30th. The paydays in the government sector vary, but they are the same in that they are paid twice a month. Unfortunately, untold numbers of employees end up accomplishing nothing more than recouping, or regaining, the money that they spent on public/private transportation to get to and from work and the money that they spent on lunch (or appropriate mealtime occurring during their work schedule).
So who joins the police (and the military)? To put it diplomatically (because I really and truly happen to love the Dominican Republic and Dominicans!) Most who join the police and military are not well educated and some were criminals before they joined. They join because there are all sorts of illegals ways in which they can then earn money, and they can do so without much risk of punishment.
NOTE: To be fair it should also be noted that there are some good young men and good young women from very poor neighborhoods often join the police or military to escape the crime, poverty and as a method of shielding themselves from young criminal types who don’t official jobs in their neighborhood who often extort and rob or bother some of the more innocent working class people in their neighborhood. Ironically, when these good young men join the police or the military they themselves then soon become the criminals and predators preying upon the populations and fleecing the flock.
Here in the Dominican Republic when a crime is committed and the police arrive (if they are alerted to the crime and if they decide to come), and if there is an arrest or a suspect to question there is also almost always a somewhat immediate option for the criminal to pay ($) for his freedom. If there are lots of people watching, or if there is a victim in sight, then the transaction ($) might take place a couple of streets away when the criminal is being “transported” to the police station. If you can pay ($), or if you have a friend that can come quickly and pay ($), you are dropped off on the street and there is no paperwork and no record of anything having ever happened. What about the victim? Can the victim call and inquire about the case? Of course, but no one will remember anything or they will be told to call a different number or to ask for someone else or that there is no record such an event. Telephone calls are tremendously expensive here in the Dominican Republic (paid by the minute) and its unbelievably-crazy-ridiculous-expensive and no one can afford (nor afford to waste) the minutes that would occur during such calls.
With all do respect, most policemen, military personnel and civil servants do not know what laws exists and which don’t. And the only motivation or incentive to try an appear to enforce the laws (real ones or imaginary one that they create at whim) are to extort money from the civilians.
Why does these people need all this money? They need money for everything of course. Do you know how much a gallon of gasoline costs in the Dominican Republic? Roughly the equivalent of six (6) US Dollars. Who can afford that?
You also have to factor in contemporary Dominican culture. What do I know about it, you ask? Well, I have been living between the Dominican Republic and the United States for about eleven 11 years now and I also took a university class called “Contemporary Dominican Culture at Pontificia Universidad Católica Madre y Maestra (PUCMM).
For the most part contemporary Dominican culture is a group culture. Generally there is no room for individualism here. Here in the Domincan Republic everyone knows everything that can be possibly be known. No one makes mistakes or errors here and if a mistake or error is made it always because of some other parties fault.
Arguing over who’s fault it is typically more important than finding a solution to the problem or any sort of progress in general. Moreover, these arguments or debates are often decided, or won, based on which party sounds the cleverest which doesn’t usually amount to being in the right or being factually accurate.
Here in the Dominican Republic culture trumps the law, or official procedure, any day of the week.
Do you know what happens when when a teenage boy in the Dominican Republic arrives at a hospital with his head cut halfway off (this is not an exaggeration, please see embedded video directly below) after a machete fight? The medical doctors and staff gather around like they are watching a pay-per-view UFC fight and they pull out their cell phones and begin recording.
Their concern is not for the patient’s life or his well being but rather getting a cool video of a kid with his head cut off halfway off so that they can tell their friends and family about it later on that night and upload it to Facebook and get hundreds of “Likes.”
Not far into the video doctors are breathing all over the kid’s half cutoff neck and more cell phones start recording and jokes are made and they laugh a bit. From the outset the doctors have been dobbing the kid’s half-gone neck with gauze or absorbent material. Doctors and medical staff are now sticking their fingers further and further inside of the kid’s neck without even looking at what they are doing because they are more concerned with the camaraderie and answering off-the-wall questions from others in the room who are watching.
At this point the word “vaina” is starting to be used in the video The word “vaina” (and the word’s variant spellings) is slang for “stuff” or “things”. What’s wrong with that, you ask? It’s like saying the word, “shit” in English when a person says something like, “That shit was gross” rather than “That thing/stuff was gross”. What opinion would have of your doctor, how would you rate or evaluate him/her, if you walked into your doctor’s office and he/she told you, after examination/testing for cancer, that “Yeah, that shit is definitely cancer.”
Please review the short video directly below and let us know, in the comments section of the WOBIK blog, if you believe that the medical doctors and medical staff followed official procedure, medical protocol and ethical regulations or principles governing conduct.
Typically a policeman, or military personal, will collect (i.e., extort) 50 pesos (sometimes 100) pesos (1 or 2 dollars when converted to US dollar) from more than several people each day for petty law violations (or imaginary ones).
For the larger violations like guns, robbery and drugs (although sometimes drugs crimes are impossible to pay your way out of out of because the United States DEA is often involved) the prices are often much more costly and you’ll need a lot more than $50 pesos.
For murder, depending on who you have murdered, people here have paid $100,000 pesos and upwards for their freedom.
Once you get to the police station and paperwork states getting filled out and filed and you make it to a formal jail then things become exceedingly more complicated if you are still hoping of buying your freedom.
While I was in La Victoria (only for relatively short period of time of about 30 days) I learned that prisoners have to pay for everything. You have to buy or rent a place to sleep and also your bed. If you don’t have money then you sleep on the floor in your clothing. Even the showers costs money and if you don’t have the money then you might get just enough water to wash your face. The food isn’t free either and your family (or friends if there is no family support) will either have to bring you food each day or bring you money often so that you can buy food inside the jail/prison. If you don’t have supportive family (which, in my opinion, is exceedingly rare in the Dominican Republic) then you will need friends (on the outside) to help and if you don’t have friends then you have the following choices:
a. Sell drugs for others and make just enough money and food to sustain life.
b. Gay sex.
c. Beggar and piss-boy who does cruel and disgusting jobs which would make your family, if they cared, ashamed to ever again admit that they are biologically related to you.
d. Become prolifically and abundantly creative and think of some service or business that you can provide, for a fee, to other prisoners. This option, while it does work for many, is extremely difficult (if not 100% impossible) if you are starting out with nothing and no money.
Notwithstanding the foregoing, there is hope for those criminals (and also the innocent) who didn’t have money to pay the police/military before they arrived at a major jail/prison like La Victoria:
1. A legitimate bond which can be paid for prisoner’s release.
2. Your family and friends work out deals with police and military on the outside. This often takes time (e.g., months or up to a year and sometimes more). With a number of silent payments (definitely wont be receipts for the $) from your family to a small network of medium to high ranking police officials, who work out deals with the Court, to buy your freedom and also the dismissal of your case, or time served or probation.
Option number two recently worked for my neighbor and, after about a year, he is now free. He was arrested for a gun and murder. Its should be noted that directly AFTER he was captured (subdued and no longer a possible threat) he was shot in the stomach by the Policia Nacional.
The Policia Nacional in the Dominican Republic can also be hired for the following:
A. Murder / Assassin (i.e., you pay $ and explain why and they, the police, do the killing).
B. Condoned or sanctioned murder (i.e., you pay $ and explain why and you, yourself, do the killing).
Do these sound like bright university graduates who are versed in law, procedure and ethics?
It should also be noted that here in the Dominican Republic when the Police or Military are looking for criminal suspects (by specific names or by description only) they often shoot first and ask question later. It happens frequently here. It also happened right in my face on December 5th, 2011. A friend (I’m friends with nearly his entire immediate and extended family) was riding his motorcycle and a police officer said stop and then immediately proceeded to shot him. He was a fifteen year old boy and he died moments later.
I attended the wake (or “belorio” in spanish) at his mother’s house that night and also the funeral the following morning.
NOTE: Most families here in the Dominican Republic do not allow autopsies to be conducted on their loved ones because in this country it damages the body to the point that an open casket (or window casket) wake, memorial and funeral service are no longer possible. It’s probably due to the invasive procedure, cutting the body open and not being able to put it back together in good-looking way, and also the procedure taking too long and the body starting to decay especially because its always hot and muggy here and the electricity goes out for hours each day.
At the head of this blog report I have embedded a video of a very emotional funeral (attended by hundreds of friends and family) that I personally filmed on December 6th, 2011 at the cemetery. The second video is of the wake (or “beloria” in spanish) that I personally filmed on December 5th, 2011 at the home of the deceased’s mother.
Conclusion: Armchair scholars really and truly don’t know how things work in undeveloped countries like the Dominican Republic. Foreign laws and procedures can be found online but that doesn’t implicitly or necessarily indicate that those laws are enforced or that those procedures are categorically established ones that are roundly implemented.
Furthermore, the same can be applied domestically. For example:
I was born in, and have spent a great deal of my life in, Iowa. A decade and a half ago (when I was 18 and 19 years of age) I learned that the laws and procedures were not applied equally and roundly in the Iowa District Court.
It depended on what county you were in (and sometimes which Judge in the same county). The Iowa District Court for Polk County (Des Moines, Iowa) wouldn’t sentence a man in a felony case until a pre-sentence report has been conducted and filed, which could take some time. They said that that was the law in Iowa.
But in Linn County (Cedar Rapids, Iowa) they had what was called, unofficially, “a plea to go” in which a man could plead guilty to a felony and be sentenced to prison just a matter of moments after he said the word “guilty” and then be on the next bus to Oakdale (i.e., the Iowa Medical & Classification Center prison).
Also in Linn County there were Judges who sometimes stated that they had no choice but to set bond in felony cases because the law in Iowa required it. However, there were other Judges in the same county who would order a man to be released, for a felony charge, on his own recognizance without paying any bond at all.
Then there was Johnson County (Iowa City, Iowa) where nearly every single bond for every criminal code violation known to man carried a “cash only bond” (i.e., no surety bond or 10%, you have to pay the entire bong in cash).
Then there were the enhancement laws. If you were charged in Linn County the charges were rarely, if ever (you’d have to be a terrorist or something really scary, like Obama or Bush), “enhanced” for previous convictions of the same criminal code violations. Yet, if you were arrested in Polk County or Johnson County they’d tell you that it was the law that charges must get enhanced for previous convictions of the same crime.
NOTE: Armchair scholars and people who believe that everything is online please (if you can control yourselves) don’t go all “cujo” on me and begin hunting down the digital versions of the Iowa Code (criminal or administrative) and start posting comments about how I’ve misunderstood all of what happened in the Courts. Laws often change and “pilot programs” are sometimes implemented which, at least temporarily, override other laws.
Please exercise your free speech in the comments section below. There are no stipulations of political correctness on this blog. Speak your mind, give us your thoughts, both objective and subjective. Share your ideas, hunches, inklings or your expertise. Please provide recommendation and corrections if you spot errors in fact within the blog report. Lastly, remember that posting a comment is much like casting a vote, so please do so.