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.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

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.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

HONDURAS / 18 SEP 2014

Around 300 army reserve soldiers are being trained to serve as prison guards in Honduras, a measure that could improve…

INFOGRAPHICS / 13 SEP 2013

Uruguay is considering deporting foreign criminals back to their homeland, a move which could unclog the prison system and help…

BOLIVIA / 28 JUL 2011

Nearly three years after expelling the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) from Bolivia, President Evo Morales continues to accuse the…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…