El Salvador’s notorious mega prison has accepted a second group of suspected gang members who will serve their sentences within the hellish facility. Under heavy security, 2,000 inmates were moved to the new Izalco prison, and video footage shows the barefoot and heavily tattooed men, wearing only white shorts, being quickly processed with their heads lowered and their hands shackled behind their backs.
Prisoners are expected to sleep on metal bunks without mattresses that were piled up to four levels high.
The video showed helicopters following the convoy as well as the inmates being carried in buses while having their hands and feet chained.
They were huddled together in their seats, their legs encircling the guy in front, as armed guards in masks kept watch.
The prisoners were arranged in big groups and stood near one another before entering their cells, which had only two toilets, two sinks, and 80 metal bunks for every 100 inmates.
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When the prison was first presented to the media, the warden, who was wearing a ski mask to conceal his identity, had stated that the cells would not have any mattresses.
Even though the prison is equipped with facilities like dining rooms, exercise rooms, and table tennis courts, they are only available to guards.
Prisoners are only allowed to exit their cells for videoconferenced court appearances or to be disciplined in a dark, windowless isolation cell.
The second group of 2,000 prisoners was transferred to the new Izalco prison as part of a security operation that started at dawn and involved 1,200 troops and three Air Force helicopters.
On the same day that the transfer took place, Minister of Justice and Security Gustavo Villatoro asked the legislature to prolong the state of emergency for an additional month.
Tecoluca prison was built to house some of the 65,000 people accused of being gang members.
According to Public Works Minister Romeo Rodriguez, the eight reinforced concrete buildings each contain 32 cells that are about 100 square meters (1,075 square feet) in size and are designed to hold “more than 100” inmates.
The building of the facility has drawn criticism from human rights groups for breaking incarceration standards.
Gustavo Villatoro, the government’s minister for justice and peace, said the suspected gang members would never return to the streets, even though about 57,000 of those arrested are still awaiting formal charges or a trial.
Villatoro said: “They are never going to return to the communities, the neighbourhoods, the barrios, the cities of our beloved El Salvador.”
Only about 3,500 people swept up in the crackdown have been released so far.
El Salvadorian President Nayib Bukele, who revels in taking a contrarian stance and once described himself as the “world’s coolest dictator,” wrote in his Twitter account that “there are now 4,000 gang members in the world’s most criticized prison.”