Alias "Lito," celebrating his birthday behind bars

Video footage of inmates holding a large party complete with live music and alcohol in a Peruvian maximum security prison raises questions about the state of the country's penal system.

On November 25, Peruvian news program Cuarto Poder released footage of a large party held in Miguel Castro Castro Prison in Lima, showing images of inmates drinking alcohol and dancing with female visitors as a live band played (see below). The occasion was apparently a birthday celebration for Julio Cesar Rubio Rondan, alias "Lito," who is serving a 14-year prison sentence for kidnapping.

In response to the outcry generated by the footage, the deputy director of Peru's prison body (INPE), Julio Cesar Magan Zevallos, publicly apologized for the incident. The head of the prison, Jose Luis Mendoza Jayo, has since been dismissed along with two other prison officials, La Republica reported.

InSight Crime Analysis

The incident shows an alarming lack of control on the part of the authorities, especially given that the facility is maximum security. What's more, the fact that the party occurred so blatantly, and that video recording of the event was allowed, suggests that this is not an isolated or rare incident.

As InSight Crime has pointed out, the absence of internal control in prisons is common across Latin America, where a lack of funding and adequate personnel makes it difficult to maintain order. In most countries in the region, the number of prisoners vastly outnumbers the number of guards. One contributing factor is the overuse of pre-trial detention in countries across the region.

The situation in Peru's prisons is no exception. In February, the entire staff of a prison in the southeast of the country was dismissed after it was reported that 17 inmates escaped by paying them bribes.