By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
RIO DE JANEIRO, BRAZIL – An attempted mass escape of prisoners on Tuesday from a prison complex in the Amazon region left 21 persons dead including a prison guard, according to Pará state’s Department of Public Security and Social Defense (SEGUP). In February the National Council of Justice (CNJ) had warned of the risk of a mass escape at the prison with the help from the outside.
“The Center for Recovery of Penitentiary Para III – CRPP III, presents points of extreme vulnerability, which may lead to recurrent mass escapes,” says part of the document released by the CNJ about the CRPP III, in the Santa Izabel Prison Complex, located in the metropolitan area of Belem, capital of Pará state.
The CNJ, at the time, requested several measures to be implemented, including the urgent construction of an extra wall surrounding the unit, the urgent reinforcement of the security structure of the visiting area, and the immediate increase of security agents at the prison.
According to officials, on Tuesday a heavily armed group invaded the compound and used explosives on one of the walls of Pavillion C to facilitate the escape of inmates. Inside, part of the detainees were said to also be in possession of weapons.
In addition to the guard, five inmates were killed as well as fifteen others who were on the outside trying to free the prisoners. The SEGUP announced that a count of the inmates was underway and that officials were still unsure if any prisoners were able to escape.
“The qualitative and quantitative count is being conducted at this time to find out if there has been any escape during the action. There will also be a review to see if there are other weapons inside the unit and if there are still criminals on the outside who were involved in this action,” said SEGUP spokesperson, Colonel André Cunha during a press conference Tuesday evening.
According to the Superintendence of the Penitentiary System (Susipe), although the CRPP III unit can hold a total of 432 inmates, on Tuesday it had a total of 605 inmates. The Santa Izabel Prison Complex has in all nine units and houses about 6,000 imates.