This week's Facebook Live stream tackled prisons

In our June 1 Facebook Live, co-directors Steven Dudley and Jeremy McDermott spoke about InSight Crime’s special investigation of prisons and their often overlooked impact on organized crime in the region.

The conversation opened with McDermott discussing the links between ongoing social unrest in Venezuela and its penitentiaries, as well as the extensive control "pranes" (jailhouse leaders) have over the country’s deteriorating prison system. Dudley pointed out that the government relies heavily on pran bosses to maintain their jails, a dynamic further illustrated in a recent interview with the country’s prison minister.

But Venezuela isn’t the only Latin American country where they saw this relationship between the state and its prisoners. In Guatemala, Byron Lima Oliva, a former army captain incarcerated after the country’s civil war, communicated with former interior minister Mauricio López Bonilla in an attempt to bring stability to the prisons, according to López Bonilla.

Dudley explained that by understanding the "hierarchy of needs" of prisoners, Lima was not only able to keep his fellow inmates in line, but also control the illicit economies of the eight prisons where he was housed in Guatemala. A similar black market phenomenon was also observed in Honduras’ notorious San Pedro Sula prison where businesses from restaurants to brothels were operating with the complicity of penitentiary officials.

McDermott and Dudley also talked about the similarities and differences between prison dynamics in the aforementioned countries and Colombia where "criminal enterprises have not traditionally been run from prison." Colombian guerrillas, paramilitaries, and drug traffickers struggle for power after dividing themselves into "pavilions," McDermott explained. In El Salvador, on the other hand, MS13 and Barrio 18 gang leaders rule from the penitentiaries and often rotate with gang leaders on the outside, or what is known as "la libre."

The co-directors also discussed how Latin America’s prisons have led to the evolution of organized crime. In El Salvador, the prison-based maras have become more politically active after the controversial 2012 gang truce, says McDermott. Further south in Venezuela, the pranes have "exported" their model of control to the outside in the form of "megabandas," large criminal organizations that present a serious threat to public security.

Watch the Facebook Live broadcast for the full conversation:

Investigations

  • 1
  • 2
  • 3
  • 4
  • 5
  • 6
  • 7
  • 8
  • 9
Prev Next

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Power

  The Bajo Cauca Franchise BACRIM-Land Armed Power Dynamics The BACRIM in places like the region of Bajo Cauca are a typical manifestation of Colombia's underworld today: a semi-autonomous local cell that is part of a powerful national network.

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Trafficking Firearms Into Honduras

Honduras does not produce weapons,[1] but weapons are trafficked into the country in numerous ways. These vary depending on weapon availability in neighboring countries, demand in Honduras, government controls and other factors. They do not appear to obey a single strategic logic, other than that of evading...

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

Closing the Gaps on Firearms Trafficking in Honduras

As set out in this report, the legal structure around Honduras' arms trade is deeply flawed. The legislation is inconsistent and unclear as to the roles of different institutions, while the regulatory system is insufficiently funded, anachronistic and administered by officials who are overworked or susceptible to...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Murder

  Life of a Sicario Anatomy of a Hit   The BACRIM's control over territories such as the north Colombian region of Bajo Cauca comes at the point of a gun, and death is a constant price of their power.

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

Nariño, Colombia: Ground Zero of the Cocaine Trade

The department of Nariño in southwest Colombia is the main coca-producing area in the country and in the world. It is a place scarred by poverty and years of armed conflict between guerrillas, the state and paramilitary groups. Perhaps nowhere else in the country are the challenges...

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

Trafficking Firearms in Honduras

The weapons trade within Honduras is difficult to monitor. This is largely because the military, the country's sole importer, and the Armory, the sole salesmen of weapons, do not release information to the public. The lack of transparency extends to private security companies, which do not have...

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Counting Firearms in Honduras

Estimates vary widely as to how many legal and illegal weapons are circulating in Honduras. There are many reasons for this. The government does not have a centralized database that tracks arms seizures, purchases, sales and other matters concerning arms possession, availability and merchandising. The laws surrounding...

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

InSide Colombia's BACRIM: Money

  Drugs Extortion Criminal Cash Flows Millions of dollars in dirty money circulate constantly around Bajo Cauca, flowing upwards and outwards from a broad range of criminal activities. The BACRIM are the chief regulators and beneficiaries of this shadow economy.

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

Venezuela Prisons: 'Pranes' and 'Revolutionary' Criminality

In May 2011, a 26-year-old prison gang leader held 4,000 members of the Venezuelan security forces, backed by tanks and helicopters, at bay for weeks. Humiliated nationally and internationally, it pushed President Hugo Chávez into a different and disastrous approach to the prison system.