El Salvador has doubled its prison capacity after opening a 40,000-person facility this week to further crack down the problem of gang violence in the country.
“All these homeboys, those terrorists in the organization who made our beloved Salvadoran people suffer, will be housed and subjected to a harsh regime,” El Salvador’s director of prisons, Osiris Luna, said on state television.
Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele said that the country Mega-prison “Terrorist Detention Center”.now one of the largest in Latin America, will have 37 watchtowers and eight cell blocks that will be “impossible to escape,” according to The Times of England.
About 600 soldiers and 250 police officers will help guard the prison, which will be spread over 410 acres.
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The prison will serve as a powerful new tool in “country’s war against gangs”, which proved popular with the encircled population.
Bukele declared a state of emergency in March 2022, when he authorized his government to crack down on gang members by relaxing the country’s arrest rules, such as no longer requiring an arrest warrant and giving the government access to citizens’ communications.
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El Salvador’s Congress has extended the state of emergency several times, leading to the arrests of more than 46,000 alleged gang members. By the end of the year, that number had risen to more than 62,000, including alleged employees.
A Cid Gallup poll last year found that 91% of respondents supported more aggressive crackdowns, according to Bloomberg.
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But the crackdown has resulted in about 2% of the country’s adult population behind bars, further exacerbating the country’s already overburdened prison system. By 2021, El Salvador had 20 prison centers holding 35,976 inmates for a population of 30,000.
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Non-governmental organizations counted several thousand human rights violations and at least 80 deaths of people arrested during the state of emergency. Human rights activists say young people are often arrested simply on the basis of their age, appearance or because they live in gang-dominated slums.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.