RIO DE JANEIRO – A massive prison riot in the southern Brazilian state of Parana left five dead and 11 wounded, local authorities said Saturday.
Three of those killed were burned to death while two others died of blows suffered in the melee, according to a statement by the state’s Public Safety Secretariat.
The wounded, one of whom is in serious condition, are receiving treatment at hospitals in the town of Piraquara, where the prison is located.
The riot, which lasted from Thursday night until Friday afternoon and involved roughly 1,200 of the prison’s 1,600 inmates, was sparked by a clash between rival gangs who were being held in the same wing of the penitentiary, according to the Parana government’s report.
Military police intervened and brought an end to the riot after lengthy negotiations and without any shots fired. They also managed to free three prison guards who had been taken hostage at the start of the upheaval and suffered only minor injuries.
Local media outlets reported that authorities will probably have to transfer the inmates to other facilities because almost 90 percent of the cells were completely destroyed.
A congressional report in 2008 described Brazil’s prison system as an “inferno,” where human rights were being systematically violated and some 400,000 inmates were packed into jails designed to hold only 260,000.
The lawmaker who presented the report, Domingos Dutra, said leaders of gangs operating both inside and outside prison walls were the “managers” of those facilities together with corrupt guards.
The report said that the government was failing to guarantee prisoners access to legal counsel and estimated that – at that time – close to 30 percent of inmates would have been free if they had attorneys to represent them.