The latest prison massacre on April 3, 2022 in the El Turi prison in the southern Ecuadorian city of Cuenca resulted in the deaths of 20 people. Ten people were also injured and taken to hospitals, at least five of them in critical condition. Ecuadorian authorities blamed the violence on the leaders of criminal gangs vying for control of prisons.
The Ecuadorian National Police presume that the Los Lobos narcotrafficking organization fought with smaller criminal cells for absolute power in the El Turi prison. The operation to quell the prison riot involved 800 police and military personnel, Ecuadorian news site Primicias reported.
Faced with these new acts of violence, the Ecuadorian government took the decision to rehabilitate a maximum security prison in the city of Guayaquil, Guayas province, where authorities transferred five of the leaders of these criminal gangs, who led the revolt. In a military plane and under maximum security, the leaders of the Los Lobos, Chone Killer, and a cell called R7 arrived at the prison known as La Roca on April 4, El Universo reported.
This maximum security prison had been closed since 2013 but was rehabilitated to isolate dangerous members of criminal groups to avoid any interaction between the leaders and the organizations they represent. The lower part of La Roca has the capacity to house up to 100 dangerous inmates; the first of which are these five leaders, who will remain “under a completely different treatment and disciplinary regime,” said Ecuador’s Interior Minister Patricio Carrillo, El Universo reported.
At a press conference on 7 April, Pablo Ramírez, director of Ecuador’s National Service for the Comprehensive Care of Adults Deprived of their Liberty and Adolescent Offenders (SNAI), reported that the national government had earmarked some $2 million to upgrade La Roca prison, which will be invested in equipment, technology, and infrastructure, among others.
Another strategy that the government is implementing to end the prison crisis is to reduce overcrowding, Vistazo news site reported. In late February, Ecuadorian President Guillermo Lasso signed an executive decree to speed up pardons for all prisoners nationwide for the crimes of robbery, theft, fraud, and breach of trust, who have served 40 percent of their sentence, reported El Comercio.
According to Vistazo, up to early April, some 350 people benefited from the pardons granted by the government through this decree. It is expected that some 5,000 prisoners will be pardoned to reduce overcrowding in prisons. In 2021, prison riots caused more than 320 deaths, German news media DW reported.
On April 13, the SNAI also announced that it was seeking to fill 1,400 new correctional security officer positions to help regain control of prisons, reported the digital site Extra.ec. Institutions such as the U.S. Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) and the Europe Latin America Programme of assistance against Transnational Organized Crime (EL PAcCTO) are supporting the training of agents.