Gang violence kills over 400 inmates in Ecuadorian prisons

Prison in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Photo: Fotos593/Shutterstock
Prison in Quito, the capital of Ecuador. Photo: Fotos593/Shutterstock

A recent wave of massacres between rival gangs of the Ecuadorian prison system resulted in the murder and dismembering of 13 inmates in a penitentiary in Santo Domingo de Los Tsáchilas, 80 kilometers west of capital Quito, authorities confirmed.

The killings took place in the same facility where 44 prisoners were found dead after riots in May. Per official data, at least 390 people were murdered inside the country’s correctional facilities between December 2020 to May 2022. 

Prison violence forced President Guillermo Lasso to declare a national state of emergency in 2021, after a single riot caused over 200 casualties. With the latest massacres, the total death tally topped 400.

Experts say the bloodshed is exacerbated by overcrowding and a lack of basic living conditions in Ecuador’s 65 prisons. Poor prison conditions make riots more common and often allow for escapes. In May, 220 inmates escaped and had to be recaptured. 

The Ecuadorian prison system has the capacity to hold 30,000 people but is overpopulated by at least 9 percent. The UN human rights office recently stated that there is an “urgent need for a comprehensive reform of the criminal legal system, including the prison system.”