SAO PAULO – Forty-two inmates were found dead on Monday at detention facilities in Manaus, capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state, bringing to 57 the total number of fatalities from two days of violence in the city’s prisons, officials said.
The deaths were detected in the course of inspections at several different institutions, sources with the Amazonas Penitentiary Administration Secretariat said.
All of the victims displayed signs of death by asphyxiation, the sources said.
Four of the 42 bodies were found inside the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex (Compaj), where 15 inmates died Sunday in a fight among rival factions.
The Amazonas state government announced late Monday the start of a “new investigation” to determine the circumstances of the deaths behind bars and identify the perpetrators.
While state officials described the situation as being under control, the Brazilian federal justice ministry said it would dispatch an elite prison-supervision unit to Amazonas.
Disturbances are common in Brazil’s penitentiary system, which international organizations call one of the world’s worst and most brutal.
The country’s prisons are holding roughly 700,000 people, nearly twice the number they were built to accommodate, according to figures from the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety.
Penitentiary Administration Secretary Col. Marcos Vinicius Almeida said the original incident at Compaj was not a riot, telling reporters that the “fight between inmates” broke out during visiting hours on Sunday.
Some of the victims were smothered to death and others were stabbed with sharpened toothbrushes, Almeida said.
“This had never happened during visits. Some died in their cells with the doors closed. Many committed the crimes in front of relatives,” he said.
No inmates tried to escape and prison guards were not attacked, the Penitentiary Administration Secretariat said, adding that the prisoners did not take any hostages during the fight.
In 2017, a 17-hour riot at Compaj left 56 people dead. Last December, a guard was killed at the prison.