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Clashes in four Brazil prisons leave 42 dead

Published: Updated:

At least 40 prisoners in Brazil were found strangled to death on Monday in four jails in the Amazon jungle city of Manaus, where a fight between rival prison gangs resulted in 15 dead the day before, authorities said.

A federal task force is being sent to Manaus in an effort to halt the violence. Prison clashes often spread rapidly in Brazil, where drug gangs have de facto control over nearly all jails.

At least 27 of the victims were in the Antonio Trindade Penal Institute near Manaus, the capital of Amazonas state, where all four prisons are located.

The federal government said it was sending reinforcements to boost security in the state’s prisons.

Brazil has the world’s third largest prison population, with 726,712 inmates as of June 2016, according to official statistics. Prison clashes often spread rapidly in Brazil, where drug gangs have de facto control over nearly all jails.

The population is double the capacity of the nation’s prisons, which in the same year was estimated to be 368,049 inmates.

Along with severe overcrowding, Brazil’s prisons are plagued by gang violence, while riots and breakout attempts are not uncommon.

In January 2017, nearly 150 prisoners died during three weeks of violence in north and northeastern Brazil, as local gangs backed by Brazil’s two largest drug factions - the First Capital Command and the Red Command - butchered one another.

The vast majority of jails are administered at the state level. For decades they have been badly overcrowded and out of control of local authorities, essentially serving as recruiting centers for drug gangs.