Washington (AFP) Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung: — The federal prison system was put into a nationwide shutdown after two prisoners were killed and two others injured Monday during a gang brawl in a federal prison in Texas.
The incident occurred around 11:30 a.m. Monday, January 31, at USP Beaumont, a federal prison in Beaumont.
Two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press that the altercation involved members of the violent MS-13 Street gang.
People were unable to discuss the ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity.
The attack is the latest example of serious violence within the beleaguered Federal Bureau of Prisons. The agency has suffered several crises in recent years, including widespread staffing shortages, serious staff misconduct, and a series of desertions and deaths.
The shutdown, which has been imposed in more than 120 federal and agency prisons across the United States, was prompted by fears of possible retaliation and concern that violence would spread to other facilities. During the nationwide lockdown, inmates are confined to their cells for most of the day and visitation is cancelled. Because of the sharp rise in coronavirus cases in federal prisons, social visits at nearly every facility have already been canceled.
The use of a national lockdown is relatively rare.
The agency implemented the measure in April 2020 as coronavirus cases began to rise in prisons nationwide, again after the mutiny in the US Capitol on January 6, 2021, and shortly before President Joe Biden’s inauguration later that month.
On Monday, the Bureau of Prisons said, officers at the Texas prison observed a fight between several inmates and responded to secure the area.
Two inmates, Andrew Pineda, 34, and Guillermo Riojas, 54, were pronounced dead in a local hospital after the attack. Two other prisoners were injured and taken to nearby hospitals for treatment.
There have been a number of serious security issues within the federal prison system in the past few months, including several prisoner deaths and stabbings.
The Department of Justice announced earlier this month that the agency’s director, Michael Carvajal, was resigning amid increased scrutiny over his leadership and in the wake of Associated Press reports exposing widespread corruption, misconduct and other problems at the agency.
Many prisoners have escaped from the prison complex in Beaumont in recent years, and union officials have decried what they describe as a serious employment crisis at the prison. The Associated Press reported in June that security at the compound is so lax that local law enforcement officials privately joke about what appears to be an “open door policy.”
Riojas was serving a 38-year prison sentence for car theft and interfering with interstate commerce.
Pineda had been sentenced to more than six years in prison for racketeering and had been in prison since February.
In November 2007, two Beaumont inmates stabbed another inmate to death in a private condominium unit after breaking free from handcuffs, beating two corrections officers who were escorting them to their cells and stealing cell keys.
They were convicted and sentenced to death.
A few months later, in February 2008, an inmate of Beaumont was strangled to death in his cell by two other inmates—one of whom was the co-founder of the prison gang Dead Man Incorporated.
The Texas prison holds 1,372 inmates.
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