Officials report 91 inmates escaped Thursday morning via a 30-meter underground tunnel from Brazil's Parnamirim State Penitentiary located in Natal, Rio Grande do Norte.
During a riot outbreak within the prison, the inmates made it to the tunnel that ran from the outer wall of the compound. Once outside the walls, prisoners stripped off their prison uniforms and were met by accomplices for a change of clothes and a quick getaway. Police report seeing at least two cars and a motorcycle.
So far eight prisoners have been recaptured and police forces continue their search for the remaining escapees in a state-wide manhunt.
This is the largest prison break in the state’s history and the second to occur this year from the same prison, according to the State Department of Justice and Citizenship. In January, 14 prisoners escaped by way of an underground tunnel. This was preceded by an outbreak in Alacruz, one of the Brazil’s largest prisons, where 56 inmates escaped during a prison rebellion, which led to the death of 26 convicts.
Maintaining the highest number of incarcerations with more than 622,000 prisoners, a number surpassed only by the U.S., Russia, and China, the Brazilian penitentiary institutions across the country only allow for 371,000.
Brazilian prisons are filled beyond capacity with members of drug cartels, criminal gangs, and other offenders. Parnamirim, like many of the country’s prisons, is guilty of severe overcrowding and poor conditions.
At the time of the incident, the penitentiary housed 589 inmates — more than 150 over the specified limit. Due to this overcrowding, there are frequent gang-related homicides, the most common being decapitation, and torture and sexual violence run rampant.