Colombia’s Inspector General’s Office announced Tuesday it will be looking into the conduct of prison officials in relation to Monday night’s deadly prison fire on the Colombian coast, reported W Radio.
The death toll has been raised to 10 with at least 40 injured following a blaze in the “Modelo” prison in the Caribbean city of Barranquilla.
There is still no agreed upon cause for the fire, though early reports indicated a riot had broken out immediately prior to the incident.
Colombia’s National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (INPEC) is currently investigating the roles played by its guards in fomenting unrest within the prison population and ultimately, bringing about the fire, according to national media sources.
The Inspector General’s Office, meanwhile, has reportedly asked INPEC for copies of its report, and will be assessing the prison body’s more overarching responsibility in the matter. The Inspector General’s Office had toured the Modelo prison last February, and submitted a list of preventative measures to be taken to mitigate the risk of overcrowding and a lack of adequate infrastructure, health and nutrition services and security oversight.
Barranquilla Mayor Elsa Noguera, meanwhile, attributed the incident to overcrowding and corruption within the prison staff, accused of beating and abusing prisoners and smuggling illegal substances and devices into the prison. The Mayor’s Office, reported W Radio, will be covering the expenses of the funerals for victims of the fire.
The injured are being treated at a local prison. Two inmates were reportedly placed under “critical condition,” with burns covering as much as 40% of their bodies.
Built with a maximum capacity of 700 people, Modelo prison reportedly counted with over 1,000 inmates prior to the fire. For the time being, the entire first floor remains unusable. Accordingly, 400 prisoners have been transferred to other nearby facilities.
The overcrowding of prisons has been a growing concern across Colombia. Last week, Colombia’s Ministry of Justice signed off on a plan to reform the penal code that could result in the release of between 7,000-9,000 prisoners from jails or the reduction of their sentences.