More than 57,000 people in jail in Cuba, according to state media report


Two teenagers walk past a billboard of Fidel and Raul Castro.


Spencer Platt

There are more than 57,000 prisoners in Cuba, according to a rare report on the country’s prison population published in a Communist Party newspaper.

Cuba’s prison population has been a closely guarded secret for many years and the article comes as a United Nations panel holds a hearing on the mistreatment of Cuban inmates and the repression of dissidents on the island, the BBC reported today.

The story published in Granma on Tuesday put the prison population at 57,337 inmates. Dissident groups have previously estimated that there were between 70,000 and 100,000 people in Cuban jails.

Granma, the mouthpiece of the ruling Communist Party, defended the country's prison system, saying more than 27,000 inmates received schooling and more than 24,500 were participating in job-training programs, according to McClatchy Newspapers.

Prisoners also played sports and had a “strong health program”, it said.

The report appeared on the same day that members of the UN Committee Against Torture in Geneva demanded the Cuban government provide information about the recent deaths of several political prisoners and the repression of dissident groups.

Cuba's Deputy Attorney General Rafael Pino Becquer defended the island during his appearance before the panel, saying Cuba was working to improve conditions in its jails and that there had been no deaths in custody as a result of wrong-doing since 1997, the BBC reported.

He also said "nobody had been prosecuted or punished for exercising their human rights, including freedom of expression and assembly," according to the panel. 

Questions from panel experts had been based on "gross lies," he said.

More from GlobalPost: IKEA accused of using Cuban prisoners to build its furniture in the 1980s