Sunday, May 28, 2017

Honduran Prisoner Leaves Prison; No One Cares

[Updated below] So how does a prisoner with a life sentence housed in a maximum security prison in Honduras suddenly show up on the streets of San Pedro Sula?

In October of 2013, Virgilio Sanchez Montoya, a suspected head of the Barrio 18 gang,  was found guilty of the 2010 massacre at a shoe shop in San Pedro Sula that left 17 people dead.  He was sentenced to over 500 years in prison.  In November of 2016 he was moved from the National Penitentiary in Tamara to the newly constructed "El Pozo" prison in Ilama, Santa Barbara, a maximum security prison where gang members are segregated and kept under harsh conditions.  Yesterday he was arrested walking the streets of San Pedro Sula carrying an AK-47.

Nor is he the first prisoner from El Pozo to mysteriously appear on the streets of San Pedro Sula.  At least 3 others have been re-arrested in San Pedro over the last 9 months, free when they should have been in prison cells.  There's been no explanation, no investigation as to how these admittedly dangerous prisoners are showing up on the streets of San Pedro when they should still be in prison.

Earlier this month 8 prison guards at El Pozo were dismissed for unspecified "security irregularities" but no one noticed any prisoners missing.  One of those dismissed was a guard who made a duplicate key for the prison armory.

The Honduran prisons, which are sieves,  hold almost 19000 prisoners either convicted of a crime, or awaiting trial.  It appears that in these new maximum security prisons, the prisoners are still in control of some aspects of prison life.  That a prisoner with a life sentence can go from a maximum security prison cell to walking the streets of a major city with no one noticing, or caring back at the prison, is disturbing.

[Update] The Insituto Nacional Penetenciario (INP), the people who run the prisons,  put out a story yesterday that this was a case of two people with the same name.  Nothing to see, and anyway, they still have their prisoner.  Except that the photo they released really does look like the same person arrested in San Pedro.

The Public Prosecutor's office confirms that the fingerprints of the person arrested in San Pedro match those of the person who is supposed to be being held in the maximum security prison, El Pozo, in Ilama, Santa Barbara.  The question now is who at the prison pulled off the switch, releasing the gang member and substituting a look alike to occupy the cell?

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