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In Mexico: A Kidnapping, a Negotiation, then an 'Escape'

In Mexico: A Kidnapping, a Negotiation, then an 'Escape'

A criminal group in Mexico reportedly kidnapped a prison director and his son to use as a bargaining chip for the release of two of the group's members, a stark demonstration of the control criminal groups wield over the country's prisons.

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  • Colombia's Mirror: War and Drug Trafficking in the Prison System

    Colombia's prisons are a reflection of the multiple conflicts that have plagued the country for the last half-century. Paramilitaries, guerrillas and drug trafficking groups have vied for control of the jails where they can continue to manage their operations on the outside. Instead of corralling these forces, prison authorities have joined them, while multiple government efforts to reform the system have failed.   

  • Who Is Really in Control of Brazil's Prisons?

    Inmates on the roof of State Penitentiary of Alcacuz during a riot on January 16.

    The legitimacy of the Brazilian prison system has come in for deep scrutiny following a series of violent encounters between rival gangs in the north of the country. 

  • Where Chaos Reigns: Inside the San Pedro Sula Prison

    In San Pedro Sula's jailhouse, chaos reigns. The inmates, trapped in their collective misery, battle for control over every inch of their tight quarters. Farm animals and guard dogs roam free and feed off scraps, which can include a human heart. Every day is visitors' day, and the economy bustles with everything from chicken stands to men who can build customized jail cells. Here you can find a party stocked with champagne and live music. But you can also find an inmate hacked to pieces. Those who guard these quarters are also those who get rich selling air-conditioned rooms, and those who pay the consequences if they get too greedy. That's how inmates live, on their own virtual island free from government interference, in the San Pedro Sula prison.

  • Reign of the Kaibil: Guatemala’s Prisons Under Byron Lima

    Following Guatemala's long and brutal civil war, members of the military were charged, faced trial and sentenced to jail time. Even some members of a powerful elite unit known as the Kaibil were put behind bars. Among these prisoners, none were more emblematic than Captain Byron Lima Oliva, who, for a time, imposed his rule inside the jails before being swallowed by the same system he helped create.

  • Brazil Authorities Caught in Prison System’s Vicious Cycle

    Brazil prisoners armed for battle (Source: YouTube)

    The current violent crisis inside Brazil's penitentiary system is a perfect illustration of why authorities ignore -- or militarize -- prisons at their own peril.

  • The Prison Dilemma: Latin America’s Incubators of Organized Crime

    AP Photo/Dario Lopez-Mills

    The prison system in Latin America and the Caribbean has become a prime incubator for organized crime. This overview -- the first of six reports on prison systems that we produced after a year-long investigation -- traces the origins and maps the consequences of the problem, including providing a typology of prison gangs in the region.

  • Latest Brazil Prison Riot Signals Emerging Security Crisis

    26 people died in Brazil's latest prison riot.

    A new round of violence in Brazil's prisons is reviving concerns that ongoing problems in the penitentiary system could have implications for the country's broader security situation.

  • Lucrative Cocaine Trade Fuels Gang Presence in Brazil's Amazon

    Cocaine smuggling routes from Peru to Brazil

    An official intelligence report determined that the Peru-to-Brazil cocaine trade is worth $4.5 billion each year, spurring the growth of national and local gangs in Brazil's remote Amazon region, which was recently hit by a spate of prison violence. 

  • Brazil Starts New Year with Series of Brutal Prison Killings

    The Cadeia Pública Raimundo Vidal Pessoa where Brazil’s latest fatal prison riot took place

    Nearly 100 prisoners have been killed in Brazil since the start of the year, in a display of extreme violence reportedly spurred by a gang war unfolding in a penitentiary system suffering from severe overcrowding.

  • Guatemala Ex-President and VP Still Wield Power From Jail: Report

    Former Guatemalan Vice President Roxana Baldetti, and former President Otto Pérez Molina

    A recent report has suggested that Guatemala's incarcerated former president and vice president continue to wield power from behind bars over a year after their fall from grace, casting fresh doubt on whether this monumental case has achieved any lasting successes against impunity.