The Secretariat of Security for Río Grande del Norte said specialized riot police known as “Shock Troops” began a staged incursion of the prison premises on Saturday night, finally retaking complete control of the facility more than 14 hours later.
The unrest began with a fight between rival prison gangs, according to initial reports from the authorities. This was the same reason cited for the other prison uprisings in Brazil seen so far this year.
Alcacuz prison is home to 1,150 prisoners but is only designed to house 620
State justice authorities said the Alcacuz prison – Río Grande del Norte’s largest – is home to 1,150 prisoners although it is only designed to house 620.
Meanwhile, a prison workers’ union has filed a complaint stating that a vehicle drove up to the prison on Saturday with unknown men then passing weapons over the facility’s walls.
In a statement, the Secretary of State for Public Security and Social Defense (Sesed) said the deaths in the prison were the “result of a dispute between rival gangs,” while the regional government stated it was “gathering information on the participation of criminal factions” in the mutiny.
The crisis in Brazil’s prison system began on the first day of the year with a mutiny at the Anísio Jobim prison in the city of Manaus, in Brazil’s northern Amazonas state, that left 56 people dead. Four others died in a separate incident at another facility in the same city. A further 33 were killed when violence broke out at a prison in Boa Vista, the capital of the state of Roraima.
Photographs and videos taken at the Anísio Jobim prison showing piles of bodies, many of them hacked to pieces, were posted on social networks after the January 1 riot there. In one, a hand could be seen holding the heart of a decapitated prisoner.
English version by George Mills.