Colombia just confirmed its first two deaths due to COVID-19 and as the virus spreads in the country, inmates started to fear that they will get infected due to overcrowding and poor sanitary conditions in the jail. As a result, the prisoners staged massive riot across Colombia’s prison system and in one of the maximum-security facility which is the La Modelo jail in Bogota, 23 inmates have died.

Over 80 people including jail personnel were also injured as inmates protested violently and starting fires. They said that they want the government to improve the conditions in jail because they are being left vulnerable to the coronavirus infection. It was unfortunate that two guards were revealed to be in critical condition at the hospital. 

“Today is a very sad and painful day,” The Guardian quoted justice minister Margarita Cabello Blanco as saying. “Last night there was a mass criminal escape attempt at the La Modelo prison and riots in various detention centers around the country.”

She added that there is no reason for the inmates to panic because there are no sanitary issues in the facilities that would push them to plan the riot and the jails don’t have COVID-19 cases as well. Fortunately, Blanco said that no prisoner escaped during the chaos. 

“There is not any sanitary problem that would have caused this plan and these riots,” she said. “There is not one infection nor any prisoner or custodial or administrative staffer who has coronavirus.”

According to Colombia Reports, the justice minister claimed that the incident was really a plan for escape and they just did not succeed as they were able to stop the attempts. However, the NGOs and other authorities are said to have contradicted her claims and revealed that Blanco ignored the earlier warnings of the senators about the growing population in jails. 

Meanwhile, Bloomberg reported that Colombia has over 231 COVID-19 cases and recorded its second death on March 22. The health ministry confirmed that the first fatality was a taxi driver while the second one was a 70-year-old woman from Cali. It was learned that the daughter of the second case came from Cuba where she met someone from the US who tested positive for the coronavirus infection.

Man in jail. Illustration of man in jail. Shutterstock