A mega-prison in El Salvador has opened its doors to the first 2,000 inmates of suspected gang members – who found upon arrival that there are not enough beds for everyone and no mattresses at all.
The facility is designed to house 40,000 suspected gangsters and the Central American country’s security minister warned the inmates they will “never walk out of here again.”
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 America.
Bukele added, “This will be their new home, where they will live for decades, all mixed, unable to harm the populace any more.”
Police officers in riot gear guard the arrival of prisoners from the MS-13 and 18 gangs at the new ‘Terrorist Confinement Center’ prison
The prisoners had to run while leaning forward with their hands cuffed behind their backs as they entered the prison
Members of more than a dozen gangs, the prisoners were handcuffed and stripped down to their boxers
They were loaded into buses hand and foot in handcuffs 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 shaved heads.
They were piled close together, each with his legs on either side of the man in front of them, while armed guards in balaclavas watched.
In the new facility, the men were similarly stacked before being led in large groups to their cells, where they were left on the floor in front of stacked metal beds with no visible mattresses.
“We are eliminating this cancer from society,” Justice and Security Minister Gustavo Villatoro said on Twitter.
“Know that you will never leave CECOT, you will pay for what you are…cowardly terrorists,” he added.
The prison in Tecoluca, 74 kilometers southeast of the capital San Salvador, was built by order of Bukele after he declared ‘war’ on gangs last March and consists of eight reinforced concrete buildings.
Each has 32 cells measuring 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 had all shaved off their hair, revealing a wide variety of tattoos on their heads
The Terrorism Confinement Center, which will be guarded by more than 800 soldiers and police officers, more than doubles El Salvador’s incarceration capacity and will help alleviate some of the overcrowding in the country’s prison system
The first 2,000 inmates in El Salvador transferred to a new prison called the ‘Terrorist Confinement Center’
A prison guard stands by a group of six prisoners who are handcuffed, lined up tightly and facing a wall
First 2,000 gang members transferred from Izalco prison to ‘America’s largest’ mega prison, equipped with high-tech surveillance
The majority of the inmates are heavily tattooed, with many having their entire bodies covered in designs
The prison is equipped with dining rooms, rehearsal rooms and table tennis tables for the exclusive use of guards
Gang members wait to be taken to their cells after 2,000 gang members are transferred to the Terrorism Confinement Center
There are only 80 metal cages for every 100 inmates, and rights groups and observers have criticized the construction as a violation of incarceration standards.
“There will be no mattresses in the cells,” the prison director – who wore a balaclava to protect his identity – told journalists when the project was revealed.
Although the prison is equipped with dining rooms, rehearsal rooms and table tennis tables, these are for the use of guards only.
Prisoners will only leave the cell for legal hearings via video conference, or to face punishment in a windowless and unlit isolation cell.
Some 63,000 suspected gang members have been arrested since Bukele declared a state of emergency months ago, allowing warrantless arrests in the violence-ravaged country.
There are only 80 metal cages for every 100 inmates, and rights groups and observers have criticized the construction as a violation of incarceration standards
An officer supervises video monitors at the Terrorism Confinement Center on Thursday
The arrival of inmates from the MS-13 and 18 gangs at the new prison ‘Terrorist Confinement Center’
“There will be no mattresses in the cells,” the prison director – who wore a balaclava to protect his identity – told journalists when the project was revealed
Police officers register the arrival of prisoners belonging to gangs MS-13 and 18
Some 63,000 suspected gang members have been arrested since Bukele declared a state of emergency months ago