Friday 30 December 2011

Inmates from Puente Grande prison escape in maintenance truck

The three inmates who escaped from the Puente Grande Federal prison near Guadalajara, Mexico, managed to leave aboard a closed, three ton maintenance truck with a double bottom.

The escape was detected after roll call between 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. on Thursday, December 29. The inmates were missing from room 5 in cell 37.

The escapees, convicted of serious crimes such as robbery, kidnapping and murder, had to pass through at least five security levels. As a result, it is deemed virtually impossible to escape from the prison without assistance. Mexican media are reporting that custodians would have been paid about 150,000 pesos (US $10,750) to secure their exit.

José González, director of the Center for Social Rehabilitation of Puente Grande, said security cameras captured images of the van, and that authorities have identified both the plates and the driver. The van was supposedly delivering paint and mirrors to the prison as part of a remodelling job.  

At a press conference following the escape, González claimed that such incidents are caused by flaws in the prison system such as overcrowding and inadequate budgets to improve security and control systems. He said that extensive work is done to vet prison staff.

However, it seems clear that the security problem at Puente Grande is not a matter of poor technology, but, as in other escapes, more a function of human corruption. González emphasized that all areas of the prison were now under review to ensure that they were secure.

At present, nine guards are under investigation, as are three civilian women who have had links with the escapees. If found guilty, the suspects will face both criminal charges and administrative sanctions.

Puente Grande has been in the news in the past. The American Glen Stewart Godwin, a convicted killer, escaped from Folsom Prison, California, in the summer of 1987. Godwin, using the alias Michael Stewart Carrera, was then arrested on November 4, 1987, in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico for drug trafficking.

Godwin was convicted and sentenced to seven years at Puente Grande. In prison, Godwin allegedly murdered a fellow inmate. And five months later, on September 26, 1991, the FBI says Godwin escaped again.

On December 7, 1996, Glen Godwin was named to the FBI's Ten Most Wanted Fugitives list. To this day, The FBI is offering a reward of up to $100,000 for information leading to Godwin's capture.

But the most famous escapee of all is Joaquin "El Chapo" (Shorty) Guzman Loera, the head of the Sinaloa Cartel and the most wanted man in the Americas. Guzman escaped from Puente Grande in 2001, by bribing guards to smuggle him outside via a laundry truck. A federal investigation later led to the arrest of 71 prison officials.

Puente Grande, or “Big Bridge” has since been jokingly referred to as the “Puerta Grande" (Big Door) prison. According to Time Magazine, Guzman once bragged that he spends $5 million a month on bribes to law enforcement officers.

Twitter: @TimothyEWilson
Email: lapoliticaeslapolitica [at] gmail [dot] com

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