The Honduran armed forces have taken control of the nation’s troubled prison system a week after a gang riot left 46 women dead.
The military police conducted sweeps at jails it took over in the cities of Támara and La Tolva on Monday and removed hundreds of prisoners from their cells, leading them to the courtyards.
Footage released by the government showed male detainees sitting on the ground half naked with their hands over the heads and necks at the Francisco Morazan National Penitentiary.
Inmates at the Women’s Center for Social Adaptation, a women’s-only prison, the lone one in the Central American nation, were also forced out of their cells and sat in the yards with their hands across their necks, but the female military cops permitted them to keep their shirts on.
The images were reminiscent of El Salvador’s crackdown on gang violence when prisoners were lined in formation during the opening of a new jail in February.
Inmates at a prison in Támara, Honduras, were rounded up and forced to sit half naked in the courtyard after the military police took control of the country jail system Monday. The move was ordered by President Xiomara Castro almost a week after 46 detainees were massacred at in the nation’s only penitentiary for women, which is also located in Támara
Honduran soldiers guard an entrance to the Women’s Center for Social Adaptation in the northwestern town of Támara last Tuesday after 46 inmates were murdered during a riot led by members of the Barrio 18 gang
As part of the Honduran government’s Operation Faith and Hope, military police searched the cellblocks controlled by the Barrio 18 gang at the Támara prison and recovered a cache of ammunition, guns, assault rifles and grenades.
‘The corruption in the prisons is over,’ military police colonel Fernando Muñoz said in a press conference. ‘We are going to control it and there will be no calls coming out of here to order extortions or executions.’
‘Our mission is to defeat organized crime inside the prisons and we are (also) going after the intellectual authors operating from outside,’ said Defense Minister Jose Manuel Zelaya in a tweet.
The full takeover comes after female inmates, who are members of the Barrio 18 gang, had firearms, machetes and a flammable liquid smuggled into the women’s prison in Támara last Tuesday.
Inmates at Honduras’ only prison for women are lined up moments before a full search of the facility took place in the town of Támara on Monday.
Members of the military police remove inmates from the yard at a prison in Támara, Honduras after the military took over the control of the jails across the country
As part of Operation Faith and Hope, the military police seized a cache of firearms, ammunition, drugs, mobile phones and other items during a search at the Francisco Morazan National Penitentiary in Támara, Honduras, on Monday
A grenade was found by the military police during a full search of the cellblocks at a men’s prison in Támara, Honduras, on Monday
The suspects were able to disarm the guards and broke into one of the cellblocks where members of their main rival, the MS-13, where housed and launched an attack.
The gang shot and hacked their victims before locking their cells and setting them on fire.
In response to the massacre, leftist President Xiomara Castro imposed strict measures to regain control of all prisons by putting the military police in charge and gave them a year to hire and train new guards.
The country’s penitentiary system is comprised of 26 prisons that hold about 20,000 detainees. According to the United Nations, the jails are 34.2 percent over capacity.
Military police agents guard inmates at a Honduran prison, one of 26 in the country that are now under the supervision of the armed forces
An inmate is escorted through Hondura’s only penitentiary for women in the municipality of Támara
Several hundred male inmates were lined up half naked in the courtyard at the Francisco Morazan National Penitentiary in Támara, Honduras, on Monday
Hundreds of guns and rifles are displayed on the grounds of the Francisco Morazan National Penitentiary in Támara, Honduras, after the military took control of security
At least 2,000 members were forced to sit half naked at the Terrorism Confinement Center in Tecoluca, El Salvador, in February
The Támara prison is designed to hold 2,500 inmates, but 4,200 are crammed inside the 12 cellblocks largely controlled by the Barrio 18 gang.
The tragedy could have been avoided, after inmates complained about the jail’s lack of security, according to Insight Crime.
In April, the Washington-based think tank visited the prison and was given access to 30 detainees.
‘We are afraid, we don’t sleep. This prison is like a time bomb,’ one of them said.
Another prisoner who once was a member of the MS-13 was injured during a melee between the MS-13 and Barrio 18 gang members that was witnessed by the Insight Crime team of investigators.
‘[The authorities] don’t care about this prison,’ she said. ‘Here we have elderly people, people in wheelchairs and pregnant women. If something happens, how are they going to run?’