Published: Tue, July 30, 2019
World Media | By Shelia Harmon

Prison clash in Brazil leaves at least 52 people dead

Prison clash in Brazil leaves at least 52 people dead

The gruesome fighting occurred in the northern Brazilian state of Para and began today, the state's prison authority said.

In January 2017, almost 150 prisoners died during three weeks of violence in several Brazilian prisons as local gangs backed by Brazil's two largest drug factions attacked one another.

No members of the prison's staff were injured.

About 300 prisoners were being held at the prison, which reportedly has a capacity for 200, the official said.

The fire prevented police forces from entering the building for about five hours, he said.

Two guards were taken hostage during the hours-long clashes, which were brought under control at around midday.

In many of Brazil's prisons, badly outnumbered guards struggle to retain power over an ever-growing population of inmates.

No firearms were found at the scene, but improvised knives appear to have been used in the turf war, according to a statement issued by the penitentiary department.

Sixteen of the dead were decapitated in the second major eruption of violence to rock the country's severely overpopulated and deadly prison system in as many months.

Overcrowding makes it hard for prison authorities to keep rival factions separate. But The Associated Press obtained a July 2019 report from the National Justice Council that it says was filed by a local judge in charge of the facility, showing that the prison had 343 detainees for a maximum capacity of 163. However, with the vast majority of prisons run by Brazil's overstretched state governments, Bolsonaro is limited on what he can achieve from Brasilia.

However, violence in Brazilian prisons, particularly among gangs, is not uncommon.

In May of this year, some 55 inmates died at prisons in Amazonas state.

Originally formed to protect inmates and advocate for better conditions, Brazil's prison gangs are now involved in bank heists, drug trafficking and gun-running, with jailed kingpins presiding over their empires via smuggled cellphones.

Bolsonaro's government has proposed moving powerful incarcerated drug lords to federal lockups, and building more prisons at the state level.

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