Honduras Prisons: Less ‘Shawshank,’ More ‘Escape From New York’

Honduras’ prisons are in dire straights, a new report says. They’re so bad, apparently, that the nation’s government has completely given up running the prisons and left them in the hands of the inmates. Now they’re being run by violent gangs who have created their own sets of rules and punishments.

Much of this began after a major fire killed at least 360 prisoners in early 2012. BBC News says that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights launched an investigation into Honduras’ prisons. What they found were deep problems in the way the prisons were being run in the South American country.

For a system that is meant to house 8,000 inmates, Honduras’ prisons are stuffed with over 12,000 convicts. The 2012 report says that the prisons were corrupt, underfunded, and far too full.

A new study from the same human rights group is saying that the Honduras government has completely abandoned all 24 of the country’s prisons. According to Yahoo! News, most prisoners where gangs haven’t taken over could easily escape if they wanted to. But most choose to remain, perhaps not eager to re-enter normal society.

Some may be remaining because of a system where inmates are allowed to run large business operations behind bars. For a cut of the profit, guards and wardens look the other way. With an established business, power, and influence, why would someone want to leave?

In some of the prisons, a strange system supposedly leaves control up to self-governance. Inmates are chosen by their peers to become “coordinators” that run the prison. The recent human rights report says it is common for these coordinators to rule over the inmates in a harsh and often violent way. Some are known to deal out punishments personally, openly beating inmates.

The new human rights report on the Honduras prisons suggests the nation invest in rebuilding their prison system and reclaiming control before it becomes a public safety concern and a worse humanitarian crisis.

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