Prisons in Honduras are 'in control of inmates'

Inmates behind bars at the prison of San Pedro Sula in Honduras

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The Honduras government has effectively given up on rehabilitating criminals and left prisons to be controlled by their inmates, according to a new report.

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said the country's prisons were impoverished, overcrowded and corrupt.

It called on the authorities to deal with what it called a deep structural crisis.

The report comes after a fire killed some 360 prisoners in February 2012.

Inmates at the Comayagua prison north of Tegucigalpa were trapped in their cells when the blaze broke out.

'Totally collapsed'

Government figures show more than 12,000 people in Honduras are currently incarcerated in prisons that were built for just 8,000.

The Washington-based Inter-American Commission on Human Rights said the jails are under the de-facto command of inmates - often belonging the country's violent criminal gangs - who even set rules and enforce physical punishments.

It also said women share prisons with men and are often victims of abuse.

"The prison system in Honduras is dehumanised, miserly, and corrupt," said commission spokesman Escobar Gil.

"It is essential that the state take on this crisis in the prison system as one of its priorities, because the system has totally collapsed."

The report highlighted a lack of staffing, resources and organisation, saying the government had abandoned its responsibilities towards funding and rehabilitation programmes.

"The state's response to problems of crime and citizen insecurity must not consist exclusively of repressive measures, but also of preventive ones," said the spokesman.

"We should include prison-system improvement programmes designed to promote work and education in prisons as an appropriate means to reintegrate prisoners into society."

It criticised the government's response to the Comayagua prison fire and urged further investigation into the cause.

The authorities are yet to comment.

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