A mega-prison in El Salvador has opened its doors for its first 2,000 inmates of suspected gang members – who upon their arrival found out there are not enough beds for everyone and there are no mattresses at all.
The facility is designed to house 40,000 suspected gangsters and the security minister for the Central American country warned inmates they ‘will never walk out of here’.
The move to the high-tech prison follows President Nayib Bukele’s ‘war’ on crime.
Bukele tweeted that ‘at dawn, in a single operation, we transferred the first 2,000 members to the Center for the Confinement of Terrorism (CECOT)’ – which he claims is the largest mega-prison in the Americas.
Bukele added: ‘This will be their new house, where they will live for decades, all mixed, unable to do any further harm to the population.’
Police officers in riot gear guarding the arrival of inmates belonging to the MS-13 and 18 gangs to the new prison ‘Terrorist Confinement Centre’
The prisoners were made to run while leaning forwards with their hands cuffed behind their backs as they moved into the prison
The inmates are members of more than a dozen gangs and were handcuffed and stripped down to their boxers
They were loaded onto buses, hands and feet in shackles, to be taken to the new prison in a convoy that included helicopters.
The president posted a video showing barefoot, tattooed men wearing only white boxers, bent over and with their hands behind their shaven heads.
They were stacked closely together, each sitting with his legs on either side of the man in front of them as armed guards in balaclavas look on.
At the new facility, the men were similarly stacked up before being led in large groups into their cells, where they are left sitting on the floor before stacked metal beds with no mattresses visible.
‘We are eliminating this cancer from society,’ justice and security minister Gustavo Villatoro said on Twitter.
‘Know that you will never walk out of CECOT, you will pay for what you are… cowardly terrorists,’ he added.
Built on Bukele’s orders after he declared a ‘war’ on gangs last March, the prison in Tecoluca, 74 kilometers (46 miles) southeast of the capital San Salvador, consists of eight buildings made of reinforced concrete.
Each one has 32 cells of about 100 square meters (1,075 square feet), designed to hold ‘more than 100’ inmates, according to Public Works Minister Romeo Rodriguez.
Each cell has only two sinks and two toilets.
The men all had their hair shaved off, revealing a wide variety of tattoos on their heads
The Terrorism Confinement Center, which will be guarded by over 800 soldiers and police officers, more than doubles El Salvador’s incarceration capacity and will help relieve some of the overpopulation in the country’s prison system
The first 2,000 Inmates in El Salvador were moved to a new prison called ‘Terrorist Confinement Centre’
A prison guard stands by a group of six prisoners who are cuffed, tightly lined up and facing a wall
The first 2,000 gang members were transferred from the Izalco prison to ‘America’s largest’ mega-prison, equipped with high-tech surveillance
The majority of the prisoners are heavily tattooed, with many having their whole bodies covered in designs
The prison is equipped with dining halls, exercise rooms and table tennis tables, they are exclusively for guards’ use
Gang members wait to be taken to their cells after 2000 gang members were transferred to the Terrorism Confinement Center
There are only 80 metal bunks for every 100 prisoners, and rights groups and observers have criticised the construction as a violation of incarceration standards.
‘There will be no mattresses in the cells,’ the prison warden – who wore a ski mask to protect his identity – told journalists when the project was unveiled.
While the prison is equipped with dining halls, exercise rooms and table tennis tables, they are exclusively for guards’ use.
Prisoners will leave the cell only for legal hearings by videoconference, or to be punished in a windowless and unlit isolation cell.
Some 63,000 presumed gang members have been rounded up since Bukele declared a state of emergency months ago, allowing arrests without warrants in the violence-plagued country.
There are only 80 metal bunks for every 100 prisoners, and rights groups and observers have criticised the construction as a violation of incarceration standards
An officer supervises video monitors in the Terrorism Confinement Center on Thursday
The arrival of inmates belonging to the MS-13 and 18 gangs to the new prison ‘Terrorist Confinement Centre’
‘There will be no mattresses in the cells,’ the prison warden – who wore a ski mask to protect his identity – told journalists when the project was unveiled
Police officers registering the arrival of inmates belonging to the MS-13 and 18 gangs
Some 63,000 presumed gang members have been rounded up since Bukele declared a state of emergency months ago