Prison Fire

By: Margarita Williams

A prison fire in a city north of El Salvador’s capital killed 16 inmates and injured 22.

Reports say the fire was an accident and may have been caused by an electrical short circuit, but police are still investigating. According to local media, inmates said the fire started early in the morning and quickly spread to the  bedding. Some claimed that guards had been slow to respond to the fire.

The small prison in the city of Ilobasco held only 96 inmates, 43 of whom were in the cell block affected by the fire. A final count  showed that only five inmates were not injured. The article said that most of the inmates were serving time for juvenile offenses such as gang violence  were moved to this jail after they turned 18 to finish their sentences.

An estimated 20,000 Salvadorans belong to gangs which deal drugs and extort businesses. President Mauricio Funes passed a law in September of this year making joining a street gang punishable by law with a sentence of up to six years. Gang leaders can serve up to 10 years.

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