Paraguayan Prison and Police Join Forces to Take Control of Largest and Most Violent Prison
A U.S. Department of State contractor recently completed training in its Prison Operations and Police Investigative Courses, after which Special Prison Teams combined with the Paraguayan National Police (PNP) quickly used their new skills to raid and take control of Paraguay’s largest and most violent prison, Tacumbu. The U.S. contractor that conducted the training, Torres Advanced Enterprise Solutions (Torres) of Falls Church, Virginia, focused the training on developing hands-on individual, team and joint operations skills to ensure that Paraguayan officials could immediately go into action. Torres’s Spokesperson, Ms. Andrea Fernandez, said that the courses are practice-oriented through repetition until students and teams perform their skills to the highest standard. Ms. Fernandez also said that the instructors helped the Paraguayan prison and police officials develop written standard operating procedures, which were used to take control of the prison.
The operation was carried out by graduates of the prison and police courses which included members of the Paraguayan Special Police Forces, who double as prison guards; the PNP; and Paraguay’s Drug Enforcement arm (SENAD). The joint operations teams seized several dozen hand-made weapons including knives, shanks, shivs and a replica hand gun, large amounts of currency garnered from illegal activities, illegal drugs, cellular phones and an array of other contraband items. The raid also identified a prisoner-controlled extortion ring in which family members of other prisoners were required to deposit cash into gang-held bank accounts under threats of death.
The joint operations team charged the ring members with extortion, which will likely result in extended prison sentences. PNP investigators are now looking to apprehend members of the extortion ring outside of the prison. Officials stated that they will incorporate K-9 operations in future raids to identify illegal drugs and other contraband items. Torres recently delivered the first drug detection dog to the prison, which is being prepared to support enhanced operations.
The U.S. Embassy in Paraguay and Torres worked closely with Paraguayan prison and police officials to conduct the training and implement much-needed capacity-building measures at the Tacumbu facility, including strengthening the emergency response capabilities of prison officials; instructing in enhanced safety standards; and incorporating
human rights standards.
The Tacumbu prison is Paraguay’s largest and also one of the most over-crowded in Latin America. It was originally built in 1956 to house a maximum of 800 inmates; while later reforms increased the capacity to around 1,600, this is far below the current inmate population of 3,980. This makes it a significant challenge for prison officials to control the inmate population; in effect, the prison has remained largely uncontrolled within the prison walls, making the enhanced training program all the more needed.