About 25 inmates were killed yesterday in clashes between two rival groups in a Brazilian prison, outlining the issue of the country’s underfunded and overcrowded prison system.
According to local police, seven of the dead were beheaded and another six burned to death during the altercation at the Agricola de Monte Cristo prison in Boa Vista, the capital of Roraima state.
The bloodshed began when inmates of one wing of the prison broke into another wing. According to the visiting wife of an inmate who was unfortunately in the prison when the riot broke out, the prisoners were armed with knives and wooden clubs. Roraima state Secretary of Justice Uziel Castro said that the fight erupted during visiting hours, and some 100 relatives of inmates were briefly held hostage.
The rioters demanded that a judge come to hear their demands. Instead, Special Operations Police stormed the prison, released the hostages and regained control of the site by sundown.
“All the hostages were released,” Castro said, adding that most of them were women.
The prison, some 3,400 kilometres northwest of Rio de Janeiro, is in a state that borders Venezuela and Guyana.
Head of the Roraima penal workers, Joana Moura told Brazilian newspaper ‘Folha de Boa Vista’ that the incident “is a reflection of the lack of interest from the state government” towards the prison system. According to Moura, “there is no security equipment, there are not enough personnel for the tasks, and the agents are working beyond their limits.”
Fights and riots are frequent throughout Brazil’s overcrowded prison system. As of the end of 2014, there were 622,000 people imprisoned in Brazil, according to a Ministry of Justice report, which added that most of the prisoners are black males. Brazil has the world’s fourth largest prison population, the report said, after the United States, China and Russia.