Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Prison Tragedy

In the early hours of February 15, 2012, Honduras experienced the worst prison tragedy in its history. 272 people have been confirmed dead in  the town of Comayagua, Honduras with an additional 900 inmates either escaped or missing.

The fire was supposedly started when an inmate yelled, "We will all die here," and set his mattress on fire. With a prison capacity rated at nearly 400 and an actual operating rate over 800 inmates, it was no surprise the fire got out of control so quickly. Witnesses say both inmates and guards were fleeing for their lives after the fire spread so rapidly. Firefighters were able to arrive on scene within 10 minutes but the guards fled without unlocking any cells or leaving the keys behind. This left hundreds of inmates trapped inside their cells to either burn to death or pass out from smoke inhalation. A few lucky inmates were able to break away the ceiling of their cells and jump to safety from the roof.

In more developed countries such as the United States, prison cells can be automatically opened in case of emergencies. It is hard to tell how many lives could have been saved if it were not for such poor planning and overcrowding. One inmate said the prison had 60 inmates to a cell. This would undoubtedly cause mass confusion and panic in the case of any emergency.

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Both state and prison officials have remained closed an secretive about the tragedy and about the victims. As a result, family and friend of the victims are outraged and riots are starting to break out. The officials have hesitant to release any identities until the mess is cleaned up and all bodies can be extracted from the wreckage.

With 272 confirmed dead, this is the second worst prison fire ever. The Ohio Penitentiary in Columbus, Ohio suffered a loss of 322 individuals to a fire on April 21, 1930. The third and fourth worst prison fires were in the Dominican Republic where 136 inmates were killed in 2005 and Venezuela where 108 inmates were killed in 1994.

Honduras currently has 24 prisons with a total prison population of 11,846. All of these prisons have the same overcrowding conditions and lack of technology. It is only a matter of time before another tragedy occurs in the country.


  1. This could have been avoided in the prison had more modern technology. Also, the prison staff was not ready for an emergency which is why they panicked and ran away instead of helping. Prisons around the country have the same overcrowding problem as we do, however, we are much more prepared for emergencies. Also, we do have more technology which would have made it easier to open all the cells to get the inmates out. This is extremely dangerous for Hondorus because they do not know which inmates have escaped and which inmates were burned, they could have dangerous inmates roaming the streets.

  2. It is sad that so many deaths could have been avoided with the implementation of modern technology. While I understand it is very costly to modernize and update any type of building, I feel it is especially important for a building in which people live. I hope that Honduras learns from this terrible incident and properly trains their officers on how to handle emergency situations such as the one that occurred today. They now have no record of exactly how many inmates have been killed, escaped, or are hospitalized. In general, this is an awful circumstance not just for prison officials and the Honduran government, but for citizens who live in cities/towns near the prison. Another thing they have to consider, is what to do with the prison. It will cost a lot of money to repair the damage, no doubt, but they will also need a place to temporarily house the inmates (who didn't escape) before a new structure is built or the old one is repaired.

  3. This post is insane but i must say it is by far one of the more interesting things i have heard lately. First things first, its obvious that the man who set his mattress on fire must have not had all his marbles. The fact that he put over 800 people at risk is insane to speak of. The next thing is the discretion of the prison officials to flee from the fire without unlocking the cells. I understand that their life is on the line but so are the prisoners. The guards clearly abandoned the prisoners due to the fact that he disregarded their individual rights. The last topic I world like to discuss is the lack of procedure by the prison in the event of an emergency. This type of situations occurs to often for their not to be a sufficient means of escape. To be honest if i were in relation to a prisoner, i would be rioting to. Bottom line is sure these men have lost their rights but they have not lost the privilege to live.

  4. This post is so scary and sad at the same time. It is scary that one person is responsible for killing hundreds of people, and he may have even escaped! Clearly the security in this prison was not up to par if he had the ability to set his mattress on fire in the first place. It is so sad that so many people died because they did not have the technology that most prisons do now a days. I could not even imagine not being able to escape a fire because I was behind bars. I have a hard time believing that the guards left the scene without opening any cells. I understand not being able to go to each individual cell, but that is just sad if they did not try. If they would have had an emergency system to unlock all doors, hundreds of deaths could have been avoided. Another part of this tragedy is that no one knows yet how many dangerous prisoners actually escaped, and now they will have days to get further away unnoticed. There is no way of knowing this information until all bodies are accounted for from the wreckage, and that could take a very long time.

  5. This is very sad and also very preventable. Obviously the prison employees were not very educated and trained on what to do in a disaster/crisis event. Typical of the prison officials to try and cover up what really went on to avoid ridicule from the public. This happens all the time in the United States. Lawyers, judges, correctional officers, police; all who should be treating everyone equally, fair, and with rights; are all to often the people who do the exact opposite of this and then try and cover it up to cover their own butts. This is the dark side of the criminal justice system that many unfortunate people see and have to go through.