The Complete Organized Crime Database on the Americas
A recent report indicates that Guatemala's prisons are at 280 percent over capacity, a problem exacerbated by poor management, which is feeding growing criminality within the penitentiary system, and effectively handing inmates control over many installations.
Police in Colombia have dismantled a prison-based extortion gang that operated in numerous prisons and cities across the country, demonstrating just how coordinated and sophisticated such networks have become.
El Salvador's security minister has said that the government intends to end the practice of separating prisoners based on their gang affiliation, in comments that acknowledge the failings of the policy but not the reality of the country's gang-controlled penitentiaries.
Captured Sinaloa Cartel leader "El Chapo" Guzman has reportedly banded together with rival "La Barbie" to organize a hunger strike from his isolation cell, suggesting the kingpin does not enjoy the run of the prison granted him by corrupt authorities during his last stint behind bars.
Colombia has released close to 11,000 prisoners over the last four months, a measure aimed at reducing massive overcrowding in the country's prisons, but one that will likely serve as only a temporary fix.
Four months after being sworn in as president of Honduras, Juan Orlando Hernandez has carried out some security-oriented initiatives to battle his country's rising murder rate. Apart from creating the Military Police of Public Order (PMOP), Hernandez's security forces succeeded in capturing a drug kingpin in March, and also have successfully managed to pressure cell phone companies into creating a perimeter around prisons that cuts off satellite reception. Since the implementation of these policies, about one thousand new soldiers have been integrated into the PMOP, the captured drug lord, Carlos Arnoldo Lobo, has been extradited to the US, and extortions have gone down 75 percent.
The massacre of 68 inmates of a prison in Honduras by security forces in 2003 shocked even a country accustomed to violence and human rights abuses, but it was the attempted cover up that followed that really showed what the country thinks of its prisoners. The second part of this two part story examines the search for justice following the El Porvenir killings.
It seems the most violent country in the world also has the most violent prisons in the world. Or at least the prisons in which some of the worst massacres in modern Latin American history have taken place. In the most recent, in 2012, more than 300 people were burned to death; in the penultimate, more than 100; in the one prior to that, more than 60... And while these outbursts have shaken Honduras, the reality is that assassinations, sponsored or permitted by the state, occur every other day.
A news investigation in Colombia has revealed that less than one in six people arrested in the country end up imprisoned. Judicial officials say legislation designed to ease prison overcrowding is partially to blame for this culture of impunity.
The UN's latest homicide report paints a bleak picture of the security situation in the Americas, where some battered governments face epidemic levels of violence, although selected success stories provide hope for improvement.