Prisons in Honduras have seen an alarming rise in killings in the past year.
Since November 2019, at least 55 killings have taken place inside Honduras’ prison system, according to InSight Crime’s count of murders by inmates reported in local media.
The most recent killings occurred on Aug. 6, when three suspected Barrio 18 gang members were found strangled in La Tolva prison, east of Tegucigalpa, Proceso Digital reported.
Digna Aguilar, a spokeswoman for the National Prison Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario), told InSight Crime in a text message that the area of the prison where the crime occurred only houses “members of the same gang.” For this reason, authorities say the massacre likely had to do with an internal conflict among Barrio 18 gang members.
La Tolva prison was also the scene of a riot in December 2019 that left five suspected MS13 gang members dead. Another 37 alleged gang members were also murdered that month during riots in El Provenir prison in the capital Tegucigalpa and Tela prison in northern Atlántida department.
The country’s prisons currently hold more than twice the number of inmates they were designed for, and international organisations, such as the United Nations, have expressed concerns about the violence in such facilities.
In 2017, InSight Crime confirmed in an in-depth investigation that Honduras’ prisons had transformed into powerful incubators for organized crime groups. In a San Pedro Sula prison, for example, jailed MS13 and Barrio 18 gang members were able to continue their activities and use violence to exert control, all without interference from officials.
The government later closed the jail that same year. But the violence has persisted even in maximum-security prisons built specifically to curb gang control.