At least 33 inmates killed in new Brazil prison unrest, days after 60 died

The latest violence is likely an attack by one group of inmates against another at a prison in Roraima state, officials say

PUBLISHED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 11:06pm
UPDATED : Friday, 06 January, 2017, 11:06pm

At least 33 inmates were killed by their rivals at a prison in northern Brazil on Friday, officials said, days after a riot by warring gangs left dozens more dead at another prison.

The government of Roraima state said the situation at the Agricola de Monte Cristo Penitentiary was now “under control”.

The latest violence did not appear to be an all-out riot but rather a rapid early morning attack by one group of inmates against another, lasting less than an hour, a local government spokeswoman said.

Most of the killings were carried out with knives, she said. No firearms have been found inside the prison so far.

It is the latest eruption of violence inside Brazil’s overcrowded and underfunded jails.

Rights activists have long condemned prison conditions in Brazil, where the justice ministry says 50 percent more capacity is needed to handle an inmate population swollen by efforts to crack down on a violent and lucrative drug trade.

The latest unrest comes a day after President Michel Temer said the federal government would spend US$250 million to build at least one new prison in each of Brazil’s 26 states.

The announcement came in response to a grisly riot in Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, where jailed gang members beheaded and mutilated 56 of their rivals in a 17-hour bloodbath Sunday and Monday.

That was the deadliest prison riot in Brazil since police killed 111 inmates in a crackdown on an uprising at the Carandiru prison in Sao Paulo in 1992.

But Brazil’s prisons are often scenes of deadly unrest.

In October, riots at several prisons triggered by fighting between rival gangs killed 18 people, including 10 at Agricola de Monte Cristo.

At the time, the prison held 1,400 inmates – double its capacity.

The prison holds inmates from the Red Command, a powerful drug gang based in Rio de Janeiro.

It is allied with a local gang called the Family of the North, which authorities say was responsible for the riot in Manaus.

Most of those killed in Manaus were members of a rival gang, the Sao Paulo-based First Capital Command.

The riot also enabled 184 inmates to escape.

The states of northern Brazil, which border top cocaine producers Bolivia, Colombia and Peru, are battle zones in the drug trade.

Prisons are often controlled in Brazil by drug gangs, whose turf wars on the outside are also fought out among inmates.

Overcrowding exacerbates the problem, activists say.

Brazil’s jails hold 622,000 inmates, mostly young black men, according to a 2014 justice ministry report.

It is the world’s fourth-largest prison population after the United States, China and Russia, according to the report.

But proposed solutions such as Temer’s prison-building plan fail to address the root problem, said sociologist Camila Nunes of the Federal University of ABC in Sao Paulo.

Brazil needs “medium- and long-term policies to reduce the vulnerability of certain social groups, to prioritize prevention rather than repression”, she said on Thursday, after the president’s announcement.

“Supposedly instant solutions like the one that was announced ... will not solve the problem. They will just placate public opinion until there’s another tragedy.”