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All US federal prisons on lockdown after inmates killed in gang fight

Prison fence. (Pixabay/Released)
February 01, 2022

The entire United States federal prison system was placed in lockdown late Monday after two inmates were killed and multiple others injured during a gang fight at a Texas prison.

According to The Associated Press, the altercation involving MS-13 gang members occurred around 11:30 p.m. on Monday at USP Beaumont in Beaumont, Texas, where 1,372 inmates are housed.

The Bureau of Prisons said officers at USP Beaumont responded to an altercation after they saw several inmates fighting. Inmates Andrew Pineda, 34, and Guillermo Riojas, 54, were transported to a nearby hospital where they were later pronounced dead as a result of the attack.

Riojas was sentenced to 38 years for carjacking and interfering with interstate commerce. Pineda was serving more than six years for racketeering.

Court records revealed that both men had been part of prison fights before. Riojas was involved in multiple stabbings at a prison in Pennsylvania in 1996 and a prison in Colorado in 2007, the AP reported.

Pineda was reportedly part of the prison gang known as the Mexican Mafia. In 2015, Pineda assaulted multiple inmates who disrespected the gang at a jail in Los Angeles County.

Two other prisoners were injured in the fight and were transported to a local hospital for treatment.

The lockdown was subsequently instituted in over 120 federal prisons nationwide due to fears the gang-related violence could spread to other penitentiaries. Lockdowns force inmates to remain in their cells for the majority of the day and all visiting is canceled.  

While locking down the entire federal prison system is fairly uncommon, the agency took such measures in April 2020 over COVID-19, immediately following the storming of the United States Capitol on Jan. 6, 2021, and just before President Joe Biden’s inauguration.

The federal prison system has been facing a number of serious issues in recent months, prompting Michael Carvajal, director of the federal Bureau of Prisons, to announce his resignation.

“After over 30 years in the BOP, Director Michael Carvajal has announced his retirement. He will remain in his role until a new Director is appointed,” said spokesperson Donald Murphy in a statement, as reported by NBC News.

Prior to Carvajal’s resignation, an investigation by The Associated Press found the agency’s staff and leadership was involved in abuse, misconduct and corruption.

A spokesperson with the Bureau of Prisons told the AP in November that the agency is “committed to ensuring the safety and security of all inmates in our population, our staff, and the public” and all delinquency allegations are “thoroughly investigated for potential administrative discipline or criminal prosecution.”