March 17, 2020 / 7:07 PM / 15 days ago

Brazil recaptures 600 prisoners who fled before coronavirus lockdown

A view of the Dr. Edgar Magalhaes Noronha jail, where many inmates broke out the day before their day-release privileges were due to be suspended over the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) outbreak, in Tremembe, Sao Paulo state, Brazil March 16, 2020. Picture taken March 16, 2020. REUTERS/Roosevelt Cassio

BRASILIA (Reuters) - Brazil has recaptured nearly 600 prisoners who fled four jails ahead of a planned lockdown of the facilities over the coronavirus pandemic, while roughly 800 remain on the run, the Sao Paulo state prison authority said in a statement on Tuesday.

On Monday, a total of 1,389 people escaped from four jails - Mongagua, Tremembe, Porto Feliz and Mirandopolis - that allow prisoners to leave to work or study during the day and return to the facility at night.

As a precaution amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Sao Paulo Secretary of Penitentiary Administration 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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