By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – The government of Rio Grande do Norte announced on Monday a series of emergency measures to try to retake control of the State Penitentiary of Alcaçuz, near Natal. Inmates at the prison have carried out consecutive rebellions since January 14th, leaving at least 26 dead.
Among the measures are requests for the presence of agents from the newly created National Penitentiary Intervention Group, the installation of an external fence with an alarm system, the installation of a video-monitoring system and the restoration of the base of the outside prison walls with concrete.
Built near the shoreline, the prison’s base is made of sand. Security agents recently discovered at least three unfinished tunnels, dug by inmates to be used as escape routes.
“We are already working on the lighting, the isolation of the units, two pavilions have already received the first reforms, repairing walls, indispensable measures to take prisoners back inside the pavilions,” said the state’s Public Security Secretary, Caio César Bezerra, during a press conference on Monday.
After ten days of conflict, inmates at Alcaçuz penitentiary still move freely and carry weapons and cell phones inside the prison. Local TV stations have shown trucks full of makeshift weapons being carried out by security agents.
Containers were placed in the middle of the main prison patio so as to separate the two inmate faction groups. Bezerra also confirmed that five leaders of the PCC faction will be transferred to federal penitentiaries.
Last week Natal residents faced several days of tension as the violence spilled onto city streets, with police stations being attacked and more than a dozen buses being burned.
Fear of further depredation led bus companies to suspend public transport on Thursday (January 19th), leaving residents to find their own ways to and from work.
Brazil’s federal government also authorized the Armed Forces to help with prison security and to patrol Natal city streets.