March 17, 2020 / 3:02 PM / 11 days ago

Brazil recaptures prisoners who fled in reaction to coronavirus lockdown

BRASILIA, March 17 (Reuters) - Brazil has recaptured more than 500 prisoners who fled four jails ahead of a planned lockdown of the facilities over the coronavirus pandemic, the Sao Paulo state prison authority said in a statement on Tuesday.

It is unclear how many prisoners are still on the run, with the Sao Paulo Secretary of Penitentiary Administration saying that it was counting the number of fugitives. Local media reported on Monday that as many as 1,000 inmates had fled.

The four jails - Mongagua, Tremembe, Porto Feliz and Mirandopolis - allow prisoners to leave to work or study during the day and return to the facility at night.

But as a precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic, the prison authority planned to halt the day-release programs on Tuesday to avoid inmates picking up the disease outside and infecting those in the prison upon their return.

The prison authority said the measure was being instituted for the benefit of the 34,000 inmates as well as guards and staff.

In addition to the escapes, there were “acts of insubordination” over the measure in the prison, but the state Penitentiary Administration said the situation had been brought under control immediately. (Reporting by Pedro Fonseca and Jake Spring Editing by Alistair Bell)

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