Lucho ÁvilaAge 25
1 Feb 2021
Los Hornos, Buenos Aires (Argentina)
Died in custody
Lucho died in custody in the women's prison where he had been held without trial for two and a half years for an alleged drugs offence.
Lucho Ávila was barely 25 years old and it was his first time in a prison. He had been a prisoner for 2 years and 6 months in a cis women's prison, held without conviction or trial, for an alleged crime of possession of drugs for commercialization. He suffered from panic attacks, and after being punished in a practice known as 'mailbox', he committed suicide. His companions are asking for justice.
"I wanted to provide information about what is happening in the women's prison No. 33 of Los Hornos, this time it is not an inmate dance," reads a text posted by inmates on different walls and Facebook groups. Despite the fact that this Penitentiary Unit made the news months ago for a reggaeton dance starring women deprived of their liberty and agents of the Buenos Aires Penitentiary Service (SPB), the silence in the national media was overwhelming after the suicide of Lucho Ávila, on Monday 1 February. In fact the news barely transcended social networks. According to her companions and as revealed by the Provincial Commission for Memory (CPM), Lucho, 25, suffered from panic attacks. And although there are conflicting versions about how it was that he got to the mailbox - a practice of prison punishment that consists of total isolation - the truth is that on Saturday, January 30, the confinement intensified despite his medical condition. Two days later Lucho hanged himself with some sheets, around 11 in the morning. Although CPR maneuvers were performed and he was transferred to a health unit, he died on the way.
"He was not a violent person, he did not consume drugs, we always played sports and each one had her job," Camila, his political cousin and friend, also detained in that unit, told SOY. Like other of her classmates, who preferred not to reveal her identity, the pronouns she uses to talk about Lucho vary and change randomly as the talk progresses. “I talked to him a lot, he said he was tired for the cause: he went two years and six months without a sentence, I was one year and four months the same. He always spoke to her and told her to defend her innocence. He was a super educated and average person who had gotten used to being here, instead of fighting for his innocence, "he said. Born and raised in Lanús, Lucho was in custody with preventive detention for an alleged violation of the Narcotics Law, more precisely for possession of drugs for commercialization. According to CELS data updated to 2017, in women's prisons 43.6% of detainees are imprisoned for this reason.
“In the stories it appears that he was actually doing a psychological and psychiatric treatment, we are aware of that. Every week there was a situation that they were addressing, ”Antonella Mirenghi, director of Inspections in places of confinement in the Committee against Torture of the CPM, told SOY. Like Camila, the official noticed that Lucho had been asking to work in an area other than the one assigned to him by the SPB: “He was very tired because of this issue, since he was supposedly given tasks for men. Carrying heavy bags of potatoes or meat, a very masculinized task. And he didn't like that, he felt bad. But beyond that, the important thing is: how do you take a person who has been undergoing psychological and psychiatric treatment for panic attacks to a place of punishment like that? "
The lawyer described the mailboxes as “practically a place prepared to kill oneself: the 24-hour confinement in a perverse and dark place, where you can see how the system 'invites you', so to speak. Regarding the approach to suicide prevention, although there is a protocol, the reality is that it is not applied ”. Although he clarified that UP No. 33, unlike other prisons, does not tend to have overmedicalization practices, "yes, there is a lack of care," as in most prisons.