As coronavirus hit Brazil, Easter prison holidays got cancelled and restrictions on visitors tightened after which there were riots leading to escape of hundreds of prisoners from four semi-open prisons in São Paulo state in the south-east Brazil

While they escaped in Tremembé and Mirandópolis, a rebellion at a prison in Porto Feliz was also reported. Many videos were tweeted showing huge number of prisoners escaping and moving along a soccer pitch on a beach. Riots in São Paulo prison is seen in the video tweet below.

In a video many prisoners were seen running away along the São Paulo coast in Mongaguá – where 400 reportedly fled – while a man shouts: "Come back Monday, OK?" Other videos showed dozens on a beach. A report said that the 40 were recaptured. In another footage from the scene, the person filming shouts: "Come back on Monday, hey!"

In Mongaguá unit nine security personnel were taken hostage and were released later. The prisoners who had not escaped returned to their cells. However, this unit had capacity of 1,640 prisoners and in reality it held double its capacity -- 2,796, according to the Secretariat of Penitentiary Administration further stating that semi-open prisons did not have armed guards.

Unhappy Prisoners

"These prisoners were unhappy about the decision that suspended the Easter leave," said Lincoln Gakiya, a prosecutor in São Paulo state and specialist in drug gangs, according to Guardian

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The department said that it postponed the Easter prison break which is one among five annual breaks for prisoners because of COVID-19. "The measure was necessary because the benefit would include more than 34,000 convicts of the semi-open regime who, returning to prison, would have high potential to install and propagate coronavirus," said an official statement.

Human rights situation

The human rights news site Ponte estimated as many as 1,500 had escaped. "Acts of insubordination are occurring in the Centers of Penitentiary Progression of Mongaguá, Tremembé and Porto Feliz, in addition to the half-open wing of Penitentiary II of Mirandópolis, due to the suspension of temporary departure, which were due to occur tomorrow [Tuesday, March 17]. Both the Rapid Intervention Group (GIR) and the Military Police have been activated and are taking care of the situation," added the statement as per the translation reported in The Sun.

There is a similar situation in Italy's overcrowded prisons, where 10 have died in riots after restrictions on visits from family members.