At least 18 dead after riots break out in Brazilian prisons

Riot police officers patrol outside a prison after clashes between rival criminal factions in Boa Vista, Brazil, October 17, 2016. REUTERS/JPavani EDITORIAL USE ONLY. NO RESALES. NO ARCHIVES.

At least 18 inmates died in two separate Brazilian penitentiaries during clashes between rival gangs, and authorities were investigating a possible connection between the uprisings, police said Monday. At least 10 of the prisoners died in a mutiny in the northern state of Roraima, while eight others perished in a similar riot about 800 miles away at a penitentiary to the south in the state of Rondonia. Roraima's justice secretary Uziel Castro said that at least seven of the bodies were piled up and burned after the Sunday prison mutiny in that state.

The inmates were armed with stones and pieces of wood that they ripped from the walls. They used those bits of wood to decapitate their rivals. It was very brutal.

Jessica Laurie, regional government spokeswoman

Prisons nationwide have been on alert since the rival gangs declared war, Roraima state Justice Secretary Uziel Castro said. But guards were caught by surprise on Sunday because the riot broke out during visiting hours — a traditional time of truce, he added. The bloodshed began when inmates of one wing broke into another at the Agricola de Monte Cristo prison in the Roraima state capital, Boa Vista.

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Brazil's prison population

Some 622,000 people were imprisoned in Brazil as of the end of 2014, according to a Justice Ministry report. That makes it the world's fourth-largest prison population, the report said, after the United States, China and Russia.