RIO DE JANEIRO – At least nine inmates in the prisons in Manaos, capital of Brazil’s Amazonas state, will be transferred to federal penitentiaries after the deaths of more than 50 other inmates in 48 hours in different prisons in the state, Gov. Wilson Lima announced on Tuesday.
According to the governor, these are prisoners who led the actions that resulted in the deaths of at least 55 prisoners in several prisons.
“We want to transfer them this week. They are the heads and the leaders of criminal groups,” said the governor at a meeting with reporters.
Brazil is facing a new crisis in its prison system after brawls broke out on Sunday in several facilities in the northern state of Manaos.
Justice and Public Safety Minister Sergio Moro confirmed on the social networks that there is enough space in the federal penitentiary system to accommodate the transferred prisoners.
“We’re also going to make available space in the federal penitentiaries for the transfer of the leaders linked to those massacres,” Moro wrote on his Twitter account.
Moro had announced a few hours earlier that a Task Force would be sent to the Anisio Jobim Penitentiary Complex in Manaos at the request of the governor to contain the situation.
Authorities began to get reports about this new massacre on Sunday after finding the bodies of 15 inmates who had been murdered by fellow prisoners inside the complex.
On Monday, they found the bodies of another 40 inmates who apparently died from asphyxiation inside that facility, along with three others in other Manaos prisons.
The center was the site in 2017 of a bloody battle between prisoners from rival factions that left 56 inmates dead, many of them decapitated.
During that 17-hour pitched battle, some 200 inmates managed to escape from the prison.
The tragic episode unleashed one of the worst prison crises in Brazil’s history, with additional violence in other states that forced then-President Michel Temer to authorize the use of the army to keep order inside the prisons.
Alerted to the possibility of a similar situation arising at this time, personnel with the Amazonas Penitentiary Administration Secretariat, supported by the police, on Monday launched an operation to bring other prisons in the region under firmer control.
Four prisoners were injured in various prisons in the region.
The preliminary investigation indicates that the deaths over the past two days “were motivated by a dispute among prisoners within the same criminal group, which is active in drug trafficking,” the Public Safety Secretariat reported, warning that the tragedy could have been much worse.
According to data from the Brazilian Forum on Public Safety, the country’s prison population stands at about 700,000, about double the capacity of the system.