At least 52 dead in Brazil prison riot; 16 decapitated

52 killed as prison gangs riot & decapitate rivals in Brazil (VIDEO)

Two prison staff members were held hostage, but eventually released.

Brazil's far-right president Jair Bolsonaro has vowed to bring in tighter controls in prisons, while building more across the country. It is still very hot inside the prison, and we are working to remove bodies,"said state penitentiary official Jarbas Vasconcelos Carmo".

The bloody incident took place on Monday (29 July) at the Altamira Regional Recovery Centre in the northern state of Pará when members of rival gangs raided an annex, breaking out of their own prison block and reportedly setting part of the facility on fire.

Video reported to be from the prison carried by Brazilian media showed smoke billowing from at least one prison building, while another clip appeared to show inmates walking around on the rooftops.

In January 2017, almost 150 prisoners died during three weeks of violence in several prisons as local gangs backed by Brazil's two largest drug factions attacked one another.

The prison in Altamira where the violence broke out has a capacity of 200, but was occupied by 311 prisoners, Brazilian news outlet G1 said. The country's prison population is now around 700,000 people and altercations between gangs happen with some regularity. With over 700,000 people incarcerated, widespread violence throughout the overcrowded jails is becoming commonplace among inmates and rival gangs.

A fire prevented police forces from entering the prison for about five hours.

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Experts estimate hundreds of people are killed in prison violence every year in Brazil.

At least 40 prisoners were found strangled to death in late May in a jail in the city of Manaus.

But this will not be straightforward as most prisons are controlled at the state level.

Around 33 percent of the prison population is made up of pretrial detainees.

In May this year, at least 55 inmates were killed in several jails in the neighboring state of Amazonas in violence also blamed on an apparent drug-trafficking gang dispute.

Experts have described conditions in the country's jails as inhuman, with most inmates poor, black and with little formal education.

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