By Lise Alves, Senior Contributing Reporter
SÃO PAULO, BRAZIL – Twenty-five prisoners died on Sunday (October 16th) during a riot at the Agricultural Penitentiary of Monte Cristo, in Boa Vista, in the Amazon-region state of Roraima. According to local officials, the riot started with a fight between two gangs within the prison.
The confrontation between two gangs inside the prison began during visiting hours. One hundred family members, there on their weekly visit, were taken hostage as one group broke the locks of their cellblock and entered the rival cellblock.
“Prisoners do not want to let the people who are there leave for fear the police will enter the unit to end the conflict. It’s a very complex situation,” a military police officer was quoted as saying to G1 news outlet.
After several hours of negotiations, officers at the scene were able to release the visitors safely.
Of the twenty-five prisoners who were murdered, seven were beheaded and six were burned by rival gang members.
According to local news outlets the wife of a detainee who was inside the prison at the time said some of the inmates were armed with wooden clubs and makeshift knives. “There are many wounded,” said a police officer at the time. “When this occurred, the families began to run. There were many children inside to visit.”
During the early hours of Monday, October 17th, there were again reports of the start of another rebellion within the prison, but that was quickly controlled, according to local officials.
Over the years the Penitentiary of Monte Cristo, the largest prison unit in Roraima state, has been stage of several attempted mass escapes and riots. In 2014 police found a forty-meter long tunnel running from inside the prison complete with lighting and a ventilation system that consisted of ‘ceiling fans’ every three meters.