December 8, 2013
Prisons chief quits after jailbreak
Thirteen inmates tunnel out of Ezeiza penitentiary; two recaptured so far
Thirteen prisoners escaped from the Ezeiza penitentiary complex yesterday, leading to the immediate resignation of Federal Penitentiary Service head Víctor Hortel, who said that only two of the convicts had been recaptured.
The movie-like escape involved digging a 40-by-22 centimetre hole in cell 22 of the prison’s block 3 into a two- to three- metre underground tunnel leading up to the prison yard. Once outside the building, the 13 convicts had to pass three peripheral wired fences.
The escapees, two of whom are Brazilian nationals, were serving sentences for crimes including murder, bank robbery, drug-trafficking and sexual abuse.
Before resigning, Hortel gave a news conference saying that the escape could not have been carried out without the complicity of prison staff, as the tunnel was dug for at least two days, and earth was hidden in their prison cell.
As his last measures, Hortel suspended the six penitentiary agents, four shift supervisors, four inspectors, the guards’ head, block three’s director and the prefect in charge of the Ezeiza penitentiary complex under suspicion of complicity.
“As penitentiary chief, I am the most responsible politically, and I take full responsibility accordingly,” said Hortel, adding that two of the fugitives has been caught, while the other 11 were still on the run at press time.
“The wardens did not fulfil their duty of verification, inspectors did not find the tools and the guards stationed on the 50-metre perimeter must have seen movement, but apparently they did not. The guards on the roof were not fulfilling their duties,” Hortel added.
“All preventive controls failed,” said Hortel, adding that the tunnel must have been dug with tools to which inmates “do not have access to.”
Prosecutor Adrián García Lois said that “one wire of each fence was cut, allowing them to be pulled open.”
National Penitentiary Attorney Francisco Mugnolo described the complex as a “rich prison in a poor country,” claiming that “greater investment, maintenance and personnel are needed in order to” avoid such incidents. He also revealed that the fugitives tripped sensors and alarms should have sounded.
“As long as overcrowding, lack of medical care, education, adequate food continue to characterize prisons, we will continue to see these incidents,” Mugnolo added, shifting the discussion away from speculation over accomplices toward the general state of prisons.
The investigation was assigned to Judge Carlos Ferreyro Pella’s Federal Criminal and Correctional Court number two in Lomas de Zamora.
Alak rules out mutiny
Initial reports that there had been a mutiny and guards taken as hostages in the prison prior to the breakout were dismissed by Justice Minister Julio Alak, whose ministry presides over the Federal Penitentiary Service (SPF).
Alak said that two unrelated incidents had occurred in the morning when a prisoner tried to assault a guard, leading to a minor injury and another inmate lit his mattress on fire and inhaled smoke.
“Obviously these incidents led wardens to close cells and employ certain security measures that generate reactions among inmates that are more violent than usual, for example, wanting to go outside onto the prison yard,” Alak said, answering why he thought reports of a mutiny had spread.
However, the minor injury to which Alak referred was actually the result of a knife attack and the relation of the incidents to the commotion caused by the breakout remains unclear.
The justice minister announced a 500,000-peso reward per fugitive for persons who provide information to help in their capture.
Herald with DyN, Télam