A riot broke out in a prison located in the northern part of Brazil, in which at least 52 inmates were killed, 16 of them decapitated, while others died from asphyxiation. The 5-hour rebellion is reported to have started due to a rivalry between two gangs at the Altamira Regional Recovery Center, and the violence quickly spread throughout the Altamira jail in Para state.
During the brawl, two prison staff members were held hostage, but were later released. While numerous officers were injured throughout the riots, no staff members of the prison were killed.
The overcrowded prison which is set to hold 200 inmates, was occupied with 311 prisoners at the time of the brawl. The fighting broke out in the prison at around 7:00 a.m. local time, according to an official from the Para state government’s penitentiary department told AFP, after one gang infiltrated a separate part of the jail. In the photos released online, you can see inmates running for safety on the roof of the prison.
Officials reported that one of the gangs set a portion of Altamira jail on fire, which led the mass rush of prisoners fleeing outside. Black smoke is reportedly visibly rising from a section of Altamira. As of press time, the story from the mass deadly jail riot is still developing, and the number of casualties may rise as the authorities continue their investigation through the embattled area.
Sargento Fahur, a former police officer turned politician tweeted out a video following the news of the mass killing at the prison, spoke of being more worried about the guards’ safety than the inmates. Fahur tweeted, “In these fights between criminal factions, I root for the machete. At least 52 vagabonds to make good people hell.”
Violence in Brazil Prisons are Not Uncommon
Unfortunately, break-outs of deadly violence in Brazil’s prisons are not uncommon. Clashes between rival gangs that lead to mass killings have unfortunately, become a regular occurrence. As recently as May, at least 15 inmates at Anisio Jobim Prison Complex in Manaus were found dead by either asphyxiation or stabbed to death by toothbrushes. At the same jail in 2017, 56 inmates were left dead following a riot between inmates.
Brazil is home to the world’s third largest prison population. With over 700,000 people incarcerated, widespread violence throughout the overcrowded jails is becoming commonplace among inmates and rival gangs. While Brazil’s President Jair Bolsonaro has promised to fix epidemic of violence in his country’s jails by building more prison facilities, the issues are more than just a lack of space.
As reported by the BBC, there is also an issue of the prisons being underfunded, which leads to the hiring of poorly-trained prison guards, ill-equipped to keep fights contained after they break out.