Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Government and International Affairs

Major Professor

Rachel May


Bolivarian Revolution, Chávez, Human Rights, Penitentiary Crisis, Pre-trial Preventive Detention


The main argument of this thesis is that the penitentiary crisis in Venezuela is brought about an inept criminal justice system whose functioning (or lack thereof) further exacerbates overcrowding in penitentiary facilities as well as violates the most basic human rights. More elaborately, I argue that the unintentional (mis)use of pre-trial preventive detention, one of the consequences of the inept criminal justice system, further exacerbates the overcrowding in prisons and creates serious human rights implications. The purpose of this study is to establish a connection between the penitentiary crisis in Venezuela, with a focus on pre-trial preventive detention, and the larger criminal justice system failure in the country. The data source and data gathering technique for the thesis consists of a content analysis and a secondary literature review. Since the theoretical framework of the project is international human rights, instruments from the United Nations and the Organization of American States are used. Reports from non-governmental organizations like Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, and Observatorio Venezolano de Prisiones provide the data to conduct the analysis which is specific to pre-trial preventive detention in Venezuela. These reports are produced on a yearly basis and will help to compliment the data obtained from government sources, mainly the Venezuelan Ombudsman's office. The findings of the thesis support the argument that contrary to common belief, the (mis)use of pre-trial preventive detention in Venezuela is in fact mainly accidental, it is not systematic in the sense that it is not targeting a particular group of people due to their political affiliation and/or beliefs. Furthermore, I prove that Venezuelan penitentiary facilities are overcrowded due to the (mis)use of pre-trial preventive detention. Immediate recommendations for the Venezuelan state include re-categorizing the penal population in Venezuela as well as diminishing the use of deprivation of liberty, specifically pre-trial preventive detention.