April 4, 1996 in Nation/World

Inmates Flee With Hostages Under Police Escort, Prisoners Carry Guns, Cell Phones, Money

Associated Press
 

Inmates holding at least six hostages fled a top-security prison with a police escort, guns, ammunition, bulletproof vests, cellular phones and $100,000 the authorities agreed to give them Wednesday.

Under police escort, the inmates drove eight cars in single file out the front gate of the Agro-Industrial Penitentiary, with a hostage in each car as a human shield and the side windows of the vehicles covered with newspaper and blankets.

As part of a deal worked out with the authorities, two police cars escorted the inmates out of the prison and through a barricade of officers and sharpshooters. The cars carried an undetermined number of people at dusk down a lone access road by a cow pasture in this central farming town.

Police said it appeared the inmates that started the uprising last Thursday were heading east on a highway toward Brasilia, the capital, about 125 miles away.

Police had already agreed earlier Wednesday to give the inmates getaway cars, guns and $100,000.

Because of that, the inmates released the other 10 hostages, and promised to let the remaining six go within 10 hours after their getaway as long as police guaranteed they would not pursue the prisoners.

Authorities agreed to that demand, and to give the inmates the car, 16 .38-caliber revolvers, ammunition, 25 bulletproof vests, three cellular phones and the money.

Officials said at least six hostages were in the getaway cars. In the confusion, they could not confirm earlier reports that the inmates had taken eight hostages with them.

The standoff at the maximum-security prison in Aparecida de Goiania, 580 miles northwest of Rio, began when inmates overpowered 27 officials and reporters during a tour of the overcrowded prison.

The prisoners later released nine hostages in exchange for food and water. The others were locked in a cell with canisters of cooking gas, which the prisoners threatened to explode if police invaded.

Eli Forte, a spokesman for the government negotiators, said earlier in the day he believed the week-old crisis would end Wednesday.

“The atmosphere is one of calm and confidence that all will end well,” Forte said.

Rampant prison overcrowding in Brazil has raised fears that the rebellion could trigger other uprisings, and the government has tightened security at other prisons to head off any copycat rebellions.

The prison, built for 450 inmates, contains about twice that many. Similar conditions exist at most of Brazil’s 511 prisons and jails, meant to hold 60,000 inmates but actually housing nearly 130,000.

© Copyright 1996 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.


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