HomeNewsBriefBolivian Prison Riot Highlights LatAm Penitentiary Chaos
BRIEF

Bolivian Prison Riot Highlights LatAm Penitentiary Chaos

BOLIVIA / 26 AUG 2013 BY MIRIAM WELLS EN

A prison riot which left more than 30 dead in Bolivia has highlighted the dire overcrowding, underfunding and lack of control over inmates which make Latin American jails among the most dangerous in the world.

An attack by prisoners from one block against another in Palmasola prison on August 23 killed 32 people and injured scores more — most in a fire sparked by inmates using homemade flame-throwers.

Minister of Government Carlos Romero said only five police officers had been guarding the prison block that was attacked, and the two blocks together only had 15 officers supervising them despite housing more than 500 prisoners, reported El Deber.

Maria Ines Galvis, president of the Permanent Assembly of Human Rights for the eastern Santa Cruz region, in which the Palmasola prison is located, claimed at least one police officer directly participated in the attack by opening the door for the attacking prisoners to enter the other block.

She also warned that the targeted block was planning a revenge attack.

Evo Morales’ government has pledged to build more facilities and invest more money to try to tackle the crisis in the country’s prisons, which Romero admitted after the riot are, in many cases, out of control of the state.

InSight Crime Analysis

Latin American prison conditions are among the most brutal in the world, and jails in Bolivia are the second most overcrowded in the region, at 233 percent overcapacity (only beaten by El Salvador with 299 percent). Pre-trial detention combined with a serious judicial backlog is a major factor in overcrowding, with 85 percent of prisoners awaiting trial or sentencing, many of them on minor drugs charges under the controversial Law 1008, which was passed in 1988 to introduce more stringent penalties and judicial conditions for drug offenders.

As is common throughout Latin America, jails are frequently almost entirely run by inmates. Often, these are elected “delegates,” who represent inmates interests, manage logistics such as allocating cells and enforce mutually agreed on rules. However, there are also prison gangs that run extortion rackets, and activities such as drug dealing, and the line between administration and coercion is not always clear.

Nevertheless, Bolivian prisons are not yet the hotbeds of organized crime seen in countries such as VenezuelaBrazil and much of Central America, where a large proportion of outside organized criminal activities are run from inside the jails.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

BOLIVIA / 19 MAR 2014

In October 2013, Mary Anastasia O'Grady wrote in the Wall Street Journal that Bolivia under President Evo Morales is turning…

BRAZIL / 19 APR 2019

A so-called voluntary work program in Rio de Janeiro prisons has highlighted long-term problems within Brazil’s crumbling penitentiary system, a…

CLAN ROTELA / 27 JAN 2020

Following the dramatic prison break on January 19 by members of the PCC, Paraguay’s president has once again sent military…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…