Latin America & Caribbean

Honduras troops sent to take control of jail after riot

Soldier guards injured an injured inmate the
Image caption Security forces were guarding injured inmates taken to a hospital in Tegucigalpa, to prevent any attempt by gangs to free the prisoners

Honduras has sent troops to take control of the country's main prison near the capital Tegucigalpa after three inmates were killed in a riot.

Three security guards were also wounded in the clashes, officials said.

The move was aimed at ending "the reign of criminals in our prison system", President Porfirio Lobo said.

It follows the release of a report, which said the government had given up on rehabilitating criminals and left prisons to be controlled by inmates.

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

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

'Cell-by-cell review'

A police spokesman said a riot broke out at the National Penitentiary after fighting erupted between gang members and other prisoners.

The prison, located north of Tegucigalpa, reportedly houses some 3,300 inmates.

Authorities were carrying out a "cell-by-cell review to find out what happened", prison director Simeon Flores was quoted as saying.

After the clash, the authorities found hand grenades and firearms in the prison.

Hours later, the government ordered an immediate military takeover at the facility saying it should end the reign of criminals in the prison.

Security forces were also guarding injured inmates taken to a hospital in Tegucigalpa, to prevent any attempt by gangs to free the prisoners.

The violence occurred a day after a new report described the jail system in Honduras as "dehumanised, miserly, and corrupt".

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

The report also found that women shared prisons with men and were often victims of abuse.

"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," said commission spokesman Escobar Gil.

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

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

The commission also criticised the government's response to a fire, which killed some 360 prisoners at the Comayagua prison in February 2012.

The report urged further investigation into the cause of the deadly incident.

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