By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – A fight this Sunday, between inmates at the Anísio Jobim Penitentiary Complex (Compaj) in Manaus, Amazonas, left 15 convicts dead, according to state government officials.
According to state penitentiary secretary, Colonel Marcos Vinicius Almeida, the crimes were committed during visiting hours at the unit.
“It was not a rebellion; it was internal strife. There have never been any deaths during visits. Some died inside locked cells; they committed crimes in front of their relatives,” he said during a press conference Sunday afternoon.
The secretary said there were no hostages, wounded officers or prison escapes. As to the claims by relatives visiting inmates, that helicopters hovered above the prison and fired shots from above, the officials said the shots were not directed at people and served only to contain the violence.
“I was in cell seven,” said the mother of an inmate who asked not be identified, to local media. “It was total chaos. Everyone started to run, and everyone was pounding on the cell gates, at the doors, and running down the halls.”
“There was an inmate in cell eight who was tied up. The policemen were able to get most of the visitors out, but the prisoners took a lot of visitors to the courtyard,” added the woman.
According to a note sent by the penitentiary to the government news agency, Agência Brasil, around noon yesterday the military police’s shock force was called to contain the violence at Compaj.
Compaj is the same prison where, in January 2017, a group of inmates started a rebellion that lasted over 17 hours and left 56 people dead. The uprising was considered the largest massacre of the state prison system.