Approximately 100 youths broke out of a juvenile detention centre near Cali on Saturday, escaping through a back door when guards were distracted by rioting inmates.
According to the authorities, circa 9:30PM the teenagers left their rooms and began rioting in the corridors. Prison guards told El Pais newspaper that the inmates were armed with scissors and other tools stolen from the prison’s classrooms.
As the guards struggled to regain control, the 100 youths – nearly 30% of the prison’s population – then escaped through a door used for moving livestock in and out the back of the prison.
Approximately 20 of the fugitives, who were hiding around the prison, were quickly caught and several more turned themselves in. A group of 200 police are now trying to track down the others in the streets of Cali.
Although no official list of the escapees has been released, they are believed to be mostly gang members convicted of serious crimes, including murder, drug trafficking and robbery.
Security at the Valle del Lili detention center has been heavily criticized following a series of jailbreaks that had left 20 fugitives at large even before Saturday’s mass escape.
John Arley Murillo, the regional director of the Institute of Family Welfare (ICBF), which runs juvenile detention centers, told El Pais: “We hope to identify who is responsible for this, because the ICBF is always blamed even though the law says the police are in charge of security in this place.”
The ICBF has also said that police claims that 18 officers provide security to the area are false and in reality there are only five.
Colonel Eliecer Gutierrez of the Cali Metropolitan Police blamed this escape and the previous breakouts on a lack of security measures and internal control in the center.
The ICBF and the police met several times in May to discuss the center’s security issues. However, according to El Pais, the proposed solutions, which included letting the army and police enter the prison in public order situations and an increase in security patrols in the area, have not been put into action.
Juvenile court judge Henry Diaz told El Pais the center could not stop the breakouts until the authorities strengthen security in the centre. Diaz said “The failures are inside and that is where it is necessary to take measures, at the moment there is no discipline or authority.”