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102 Inmates Escape Brazil Prison

July 9, 2001

SAO PAULO, Brazil (AP) _ More than 100 inmates escaped from Latin America’s largest prison complex by tunneling through a wall and into the city’s sewer system, officials said Monday.

The inmates began escaping though a yard-long tunnel hole they had dug through the wall of Carandiru prison at about 10:00 a.m. Sunday, prison officials said officials.

The escape was discovered when a guard on top of the prison wall noticed an inmate disappearing into the hole and fired three warning shots.

``People living in the neighborhood were calling saying they saw men climbing out of manhole covers,″ said a Sao Paulo police officer who declined to be identified. So far, 35 of the escaped convicts have been recaptured.

The majority of the escaped convicts were members of the First Capital Command, a organized crime group working within Brazil’s prison system.

Last February, the group announced it’s existence with a wave of simultaneous uprisings at 28 prisons and jail houses across Sao Paulo state. At Carandiru, they took more than 7,000 visitors hostage, before releasing them unharmed.

Sunday’s escape was the largest in the troubled prison’s history. The previous record was on May 9, when 52 prisoners escaped, also though a tunnel that opened into the sewer system.

Violence is a constant in the grossly overcrowded Carandiru complex, which was built for 3,200 inmates, but now holds close to 8,000.

Carandiru is notorious throughout Brazil for the 1992 massacre where police gunned down 102 inmates to quell an uprising.

Sao Paulo State Gov. Geraldo Alckmin said earlier this year that he intended to close Carindiru before the end of next year, but this would depend on the completion of new facilities.

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