- A fight between gangs triggered the Para State prison killings.
- Sixteen of those killed in the five hours of the event were beheaded and the rest died suffocated by smoke.
- With the increase of victims to 57 - from 52 - it becomes the worst prison slaughter of the year in Brazil.
At least 57 prisoners died Monday in a prison riot in the city of Altamira (in Para State, north of Brazil). The state prison system superintendent has reported that the origin of the disturbances was a fight between factions that began at seven in the morning (local time) when prisoners from one prison wing entered another wing where inmates of another group were locked up. The same source said that when the incidents began, the facilities was locked down and the prisoners who started the attack set fire to mattresses, so that some of the victims died of suffocation.
Sixteen of those killed in the five hours of the event were beheaded and the rest suffocated by smoke. The inmates kicked severed heads, recorded the images and spread them on WhatsApp, according to witnesses. The authorities have detailed that two prison officers were held hostage, but have already been released following negotiations.
With the increase of victims to 57 – from 52 – it becomes the worst prison slaughter of the year in Brazil, where prisons are a frequent scene of riots and deaths. Only two months ago, another 55 inmates died in a prison complex in Manaus, the capital of the Amazon, where two years ago another revolt in a prison ended with the death of 56 people.
The majority of Brazilian prisons are state-run. They are overcrowded and living conditions are often unfortunate. Usually members of different criminal factions – such as the Vermelho Command of Rio de Janeiro, the PCC (First Capital Command) of Sao Paolo, the Familia do Norte, etc. – are separated into different galleries to avoid clashes.
In recent years, northern Brazil has become one of the main confrontation scenarios between rival factions. As a result of these confrontations for dominance over drug trafficking routes and the recruitment of new members in prisons, there are often clashes behind bars.
The violence in prison contrasts with the fall of the murder rate outside it, in the streets. Negotiations and possible agreements between criminal gangs in most states have resulted in a drop in homicide figures, something that was already happening in Sao Paulo under the influence of the PCC. Violence Monitor data indicates that murders have fallen in 2018, when there were 57,117, compared to almost 64,000 in the previous year.
The prison where the riot occurred had an occupation well above its capacity. Although it was prepared for 208 prisoners, there were 384 people held, according to the latest official figures, of 2016.
The secretary of Para Penitentiary System, Jarbas Vasconcelos Carmo, explained after the incident that the unit houses two factions, the Vermelho Commando of Rio, and the Classe A Command, a local group allied with the PCC. The sides are rivals. The Cariocas Ponte says that the attack was initiated by Classe A Command and that most of the victims were from the Vermelho Command.
Carmo said after the incident that the attack was unexpected: “We did not receive any report from our intelligence that pointed to a possible attack of this magnitude.” The head of state prisons added: “We found decapitated bodies and the others killed by suffocation. We don’t take them all out because the place is still hot. It is an old container-shaped unit.”
Ten leaders implicated in the riot have been transferred to federal prisons outside Para and another 36 prisoners will be transferred to other prisons in the same state. Last May relatives of the inmates demonstrated in front of the Altamira prison so that the criminal gang’s prisoners were transferred to other prisons.