TEGUCIGALPA – The inspection committee of the Honduras National Penitentiary System reported this Saturday the suspension of the Tela prison warden following its investigation into the violent deaths of 18 inmates.
The removal of the prison warden was confirmed to reporters by a spokeswoman for the National Penitentiary Institute, Digna Aguilar.
She said the identity of the warden could not be revealed “for security reasons,” and recalled the slaying of the warden of the “maximum security” prison of Ilama in the western province of Santa Barbara, Pedro Armas, who had been temporarily suspended from his post while the death of a prisoner was being investigated.
At least 18 inmates died on Friday at the Tela prison in the Caribbean province of Atlatida, where a shootout occurred among prisoners for reasons now under investigation.
At least 15 prisoners who were wounded in the shooting, some seriously, were taken to two hospitals, one in Tela and the other in the city of San Pedro Sula in northern Honduras.
The spokeswoman for the National Penitentiary Institute said the inspection committee, appointed last Tuesday by Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez, decided to send another “contingent of prison guards to strengthen security” at the prison.
She noted that the Tela prison was not yet under control of the inspection committee when the violence broke out, which came on top of other clashes that occurred in at least five penitentiaries over the past six months, which left at least 15 inmates dead.
Aguilar said the inspection committee is analyzing the possible suspension of family visits to the lockup.
The Honduran government declared a state of emergency throughout the penitentiary system on Dec. 17 after several outbreaks of violence occurred in at least five prisons, and at the same time suspended authorities of the National Penitentiary Institute and of the National Institute for Attention to Delinquent Minors (INAMI).
The penitentiary system in Honduras, made up of some 30 prisons, holds around 22,000 prisoners, though their maximum capacity is for 8,000, and less than half the inmates have been sentenced, according to official figures.