HomeNewsBriefFire in Overcrowded Honduran Prison Kills Over 300
BRIEF

Fire in Overcrowded Honduran Prison Kills Over 300

HONDURAS / 15 FEB 2012 BY HANNAH STONE EN

More than 300 inmates are feared to have died when a fire broke out in a prison in Honduras, which was operating at well over capacity.

Authorities said that 356 prisoners were unaccounted for out of the total 852, but that some of these might have escaped. One of the dead is a female visitor who was staying overnight.

The fire began Tuesday night in the prison in Comayagua, but it is not yet known whether it was caused by an electrical fault or by an inmate setting fire to a mattress. Local firefighters described hellish scenes, reporting that "some 100 prisoners were burned to death or suffocated in their cells ... We couldn't get them out because we didn't have the keys and couldn't find the guards who had them."

One prisoner told local media that their calls for help were at first ignored. "For a while, nobody listened. But after a few minutes, which seemed like an eternity, a guard appeared with keys and let us out," he said.”

InSight Crime Analysis

The tragedy highlights the deep problems of the Honduran prison system -- the Comayagua facility was well over capacity in terms of number of inmates it was designed to hold, reports Reuters.

In 2010, the country's 24 prisons held more than 11,700 prisoners, though there was only capacity for 8,280, according to El Heraldo.

One reason for the overcrowding is the “mano dura” or iron fist approach to crime, which concentrates on locking up members of youth gangs, sometimes just for being associated with the gangs rather than for a specific offense. Overcrowding and a lack of resources means that discipline is poor. Prisons are dominated by powerful gangs of inmates, and criminals often carry on their activities from inside. Some half of all extortions in Tegucigalpa are carried out from within the city’s prison, according to Honduran authorities.

The shortcomings of the penal system have been exposed again and again by incidents in which prisoners lose their lives. In 2004, more than 100 inmates died in a fire in a prison in the city of San Pedro Sula. In 2006, 13 inmates died in a riot in a prison north of Tegucigalpa. Nine died in riots in San Pedro Sula prison as recently as October.

In 2010 President Porfirio Lobo declared an emergency in nine of the country’s 24 prisons. This latest disaster, and the massive loss of life, could force the government to finally carry out real reforms.

A version of this article appeared on the Pan-American Post.

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

ECUADOR / 24 FEB 2021

Long-simmering tensions between prison gangs in Ecuador exploded this week, leaving at least 75 people brutally killed in four prisons…

ELITES AND CRIME / 15 JUL 2022

Son of former Honduras President Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo Sosa by a well-armed commando has shocked the country.

EL SALVADOR / 13 DEC 2021

Efforts to reduce gang violence are often thought of as highly dependent on local conditions, but a recent report looks…

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…