Wed, May 29, 2019 - Page 6 News List

Clashes in four Brazil prisons leave 40 dead


A relative of an inmate cries in front of a prison complex in the Brazilian state of Amazonas on Monday after prisoners were found strangled to death in four separate jails, according to the Manaus penitentiary department.

Photo: Reuters

At least 40 inmates were on Monday killed in four jails in northern Brazil, authorities said, in the latest wave of violence to rock the nation’s severely overpopulated and dangerous prison system.

The victims appeared to have been killed by “asphyxiation,” the Amazonas state government said in a statement, a day after 15 people were killed in one of the prisons.

Officials had initially put the number of dead at 42, but later revised the number to 40 without explanation. At least 25 of the victims were found in the Antonio Trindade Penal Institute near Manaus, the capital of Amazonas, where all four prisons are.

The federal government has dispatched reinforcements to boost security in the jails.

“I just spoke with Minister [of Justice] Sergio Moro, who is sending a prison intervention team to Amazonas so that he can help us in this moment of crisis,” Amazonas Governor Wilson Lima said.

An investigation launched into Sunday’s mass killing at the Anisio Jobim Penal Complex has been widened to include Monday’s deaths.

Four of those killed in the latest violence were found at the Anisio Jobim jail, which was also the scene of a prison rebellion that lasted almost 20 hours and left 56 people dead in January 2017.

Another five were killed at the Provisional Detention Center for Men and six died at the Puraquequara Prison Unit.

Outbreaks of deadly violence continue to happen in Brazil’s jails due to the lack of “structural changes,” experts said.

“Prisons continue to be places of serious violations of human rights,” said Juliana Melo, a professor at the Federal University of Rio Grande do Norte and expert on Brazil’s prisons. “The conditions are appalling, with a majority of prisoners poor, black, badly schooled and marginalized.”

“Intense disputes” between criminal factions for control inside and outside the prisons fuel the violence, she added.

Brazil has the world’s third-largest prison population after the US and China, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016, official data showed.

The population is double the capacity of the nation’s jails, which in the same year was estimated to be 368,049 inmates.

The federal government had been expected to add another 115,000 inmates by the end of last year, Human Rights Watch said in a recent report.

“Overcrowding and understaffing make it impossible for prison authorities to maintain control within many prisons, leaving detainees vulnerable to violence and recruitment into gangs,” it said.

Along with severe overcrowding and gang violence, riots and breakout attempts in Brazil’s prisons are not uncommon.

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