HomeNewsBriefColombia Prison Riot Deaths Put Spotlight on Overcrowding
BRIEF

Colombia Prison Riot Deaths Put Spotlight on Overcrowding

COLOMBIA / 29 JAN 2014 BY CHARLES PARKINSON EN

Ten inmates died and around 40 more were injured during a riot and a fire in a northern Colombia prison, highlighting chronic overcrowding in the country's jails and prompting calls for reform.

The deaths and injuries occurred on the evening of January 27 in the Modelo prison in the Caribbean coastal city of Barranquilla, after a confrontation between inmates and guards led to the use of tear gas, rioting and a fire, reported Semana. Six inmates died at the scene, and four others en route to the hospital, while up to 43 were injured.

The cause of the deaths has not yet been confirmed. According to AFP, the fire may have been caused by prisoners burning sleeping mats. El Espectador reported police fired tear gas into areas where the fire was already burning.  

According to Semana, the prison was housing more than twice the number of prisoners it had capacity for at the time of the incident -- with 1,123 inmates in a prison built for 454. The wing where the riot and fire took place was particularly overcrowded, with 731 prisoners housed in a zone intended for 196 -- representing 273 percent capacity.

While AFP reported this was Colombia's first prison riot to result in deaths since 2000, the event has drawn attention to the chronic overcrowding of the country's jails. Justice Minister Alfonso Gomez Mendez called the event “a shame,” while the governor of Atlantico -- the state where Barranquilla is located -- called for prison reform.

A new prison code that entered into effect in Colombia earlier in January aims to combat this kind of overcrowding by allowing prisoners doing time for minor crimes to leave early and complete their sentences under house arrest, reported El Tiempo.

InSight Crime Analysis

While this is the first deadly riot to take place in a Colombian prison in over a decade, the country's prison system has been no stranger to criticism in recent years. The National Prison Institute (INPEC) has come under fire for the favorable conditions enjoyed by drug traffickers and corrupt politicians, among others, leading to calls for the body to be dissolved.

Prison overcrowding is a problem throughout much of the region. The most overcrowded penitentiaries are found in Bolivia and El Salvador, while chronic overcrowding resulting in violence and prison breaks has also been noted in Venezuela, Mexico, Ecuador and much of Central America.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Prisons

One of the key criticisms aimed at overcrowded prisons -- beyond the obvious public health and human rights concerns -- is that they generate extreme violence and act as excellent recruitment centers for street gangs and criminal organizations.

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

COCAINE / 12 OCT 2020

A new major report about drug trafficking and consumption in Europe has provided key insights into how a record production…

CARIBBEAN / 9 JUL 2021

Two days on from the nighttime assassination of Haiti President Jovenel Moïse in Port-au-Prince, competing theories have failed to provide…

COLOMBIA / 15 JUL 2022

The death of one of the last-remaining leaders of the ex-FARC mafia may signal the disintegration of the FARC dissidents…

About InSight Crime

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Extensive Coverage of our Chronicles of a Cartel Bodyguard

23 SEP 2022

Our recent investigation, A Cartel Bodyguard in Mexico’s 'Hot Land', has received extensive media coverage.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime, American University Host Illegal Fishing Panel

19 SEP 2022

InSight Crime and the Center for Latin American & Latino Studies (CLALS) at American University discussed the findings of a joint investigation on IUU fishing at a September 9 conference.

THE ORGANIZATION

Impact on the Media Landscape

9 SEP 2022

InSight Crime’s first investigation on the Dominican Republic made an immediate impact on the Dominican media landscape, with major news outlets republishing and reprinting our findings, including in …

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Sharpens Its Skills

2 SEP 2022

Last week, the InSight Crime team gathered for our annual retreat in Colombia, where we discussed our vision and strategy for the next 12 months.  During the week, we also learned how to…

THE ORGANIZATION

Colombia’s Fragile Path to Peace Begins to Take Shape

26 AUG 2022

InSight Crime is charting the progress of President Gustavo Petro’s agenda as he looks to revolutionize Colombia’s security policy, opening dialogue with guerrillas, reforming the military and police, and…