The murder suspect is in "a very tough jail" overcrowded with "well-known criminals," sources say

By Aaron Parsley and Antoinette Y. Coulton
June 13, 2010 11:00 AM
Credit: Karel Navarro/AP

Joran van der Sloot has reportedly told Peruvian officials he wants to come clean about the location of the body of Alabama honor student Natalee Holloway, who went missing five years ago in Aruba.

The reason? He’s afraid for his life inside the Peruvian prison where he’s locked-up after being charged in the murder of business student Stephany Flores, 21.

“I don’t want to be imprisoned in Peru,” he told police, according to a local newspaper. “I am afraid I will be killed.”

Van der Sloot, 22, is currently being held in isolation in the high-security Miguel Castro Castro prison in the San Juan de Lurigancho district of Lima while he awaits trial – and officials say he has requested security measures to guarantee his safety there, fearing other prisoners will take justice into their own hands.

“Convicts inside have committed serious crimes,” criminal attorney Luis Lamas Puccio, who is not connected to the case, tells PEOPLE in Peru. “There is too much promiscuity, overcrowding and poor health conditions. I know Joran is isolated . . . This way he’ll be safe not only from rape but also from being killed.”

Inside ‘Castro Castro’

The prison, which was built to hold 2,000 inmates, now houses about 2,300. But Leonardo Caparros, former director of the National Institute that oversees Peru’s prison system, tells PEOPLE that van der Sloot is lucky to be assigned to Miguel Castro Castro prison because overcrowding isn’t as horrendous there as it is in others in the South American country.

“Of course it’s still a very tough jail because the people there – they all are well-known criminals,” Caparros says. “You never send to Castro Castro a person who is going into a criminal situation for the first time. There is an exception, and that is murder.”

Though van der Sloot is being kept separated from other prisoners, “isolation is relative because infrastructure is not ready and adapted to separate convicts,” says Puccio, who also provided an example of how this isolation works: “They have to stay at the auditorium alone, and when that place has to be used, they are taken to a garden or an office. There isn’t a proper isolation system like there is in the United States.”

What Money Can Buy

If van der Sloot has access to outside money he might be able to buy himself protection from other inmates inside Castro Castro. “It’s like a secret that everybody knows,” Caparros says.

A U.S. Department of State report on conditions in Peru’s prisons, released in March 2010, backs up Caparros’s claim.

“Conditions were poor to extremely harsh in facilities for prisoners who lacked funds,” the report states. “Overcrowding, poor sanitation, and inadequate nutrition and health care were serious problems. Inmates had intermittent access to running water, bathing facilities were inadequate, kitchen facilities were unhygienic, and prisoners slept in hallways and common areas for lack of cell space.”

Whether or not van der Sloot has access to money, Caparros says, “I don’t think that so many people will be able to sympathize with somebody who killed little girls. Criminals have codes, you know. . . . I guess many people in jail will not like that.”