After that incident, Ecuador declared a state of emergency
across the prison system for the second time this year amid rising violence. That state of emergency has been in effect since September 30. The state also promised to devote $24 million to the prisons system during the state of emergency.
More than 300 inmates have been killed in prison violence this year, according to figures from Ecuador’s prison service, SNAI.
Following the deadly September riot, Ecuador began working in October on pardoning
and commuting thousands of sentences in order to free up space in the country’s chronically overcrowded prisons.
In July, Eduardo Moncayo, then-prison chief, told local media that the Litoral Penitentiary was the most overcrowded in the country,
with more than 9,000 inmates in a facility planned for 5,000.
Such overcrowding is the primary cause of violence, Douglas Durán, director of the United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime (ILANUD), told CNN.
“According to our databases, in 2019 Ecuador jails were at 140% overcapacity. That is considered a cruel and inhumane treatment for the inmates under UN protocols, and it’s a chronic problem across the region,” Duran said.
Ecuador’s prison inmates are also often stunningly well-armed.
In Guayaquil, they deployed automatic weapons and even grenades. At the Ibarra penitentiary, prison guards told CNN they feared being overwhelmed by a growing number of convicts with access to weaponry from machetes to explosives.
During the investigation into the September massacre, authorities seized
guns, ammunition, 25 bladed weapons, three explosive devices and various drugs, according to SNAI. A video released by Ecuador Police captured security personnel retrieving some of the items from what appears to be one of the prison cells. The clip showed
handguns wrapped in plastic, various knives, cell phones, packages of ammunition, and different packages of drugs.