Mass Drug Overdose Sparks 48 Deaths In Venezuelan Prison

By McCarton Ackerman 12/16/14

A rash of overdoses has plagued an already beleaguered prison system.

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A typically overcrowded prison in Venezuela. Photo via

A massive drug overdose inside a Venezuelan jail has led to 48 deaths over the last three weeks, with that number nearly quadrupling in recent days.

The Venezuelan government had initially confirmed 13 deaths at the David Viloria penitentiary center in the western state of Lara, but reported last Thursday that this number had jumped to 48. A prisoner protest for better living conditions on Nov. 24 resulted in several inmates breaking into the infirmary and ingesting products that included antibiotics. A total of 148 inmates became intoxicated and required medical treatment.

Although there is no independent confirmation of what happened during the riot, relatives of prisoners claim the inmates were poisoned by food and water brought in from the outside. The penitentiary has come under fire in its handling of security issues after a bloody riot at the facility last year claimed 50 lives, with weapons and drug use being notoriously widespread in Venezuelan prisons.

Drugs in prison is hardly limited to Venezuela, especially with regard to the U.S. A report from earlier this month highlighted how some California parolees were getting arrested on purpose so that they could smuggle drugs into jail. A common scenario is a parolee committing a minor infraction so they are arrested and then swallowing balloons of drugs that won’t come up in strip searches. Sheriff’s officials have reported heroin, meth, and cocaine entering jails through this method.

The rise in drugs throughout California prisons was sparked by the prison realignment registration that the state created in 2011, which gives California parole violators the chance to serve 10 days in a county jail instead of months in a state prison. A survey from the Associated Press found that seven of the 10 most populous counties in California have seen an increase in illegal contraband since the realignment began. Narcotics cases have jumped from 145 in 2011 to 335 so far this year.

Several of the counties are already working to address this issue. San Diego County is now using body scanners on parolees entering these jails, but the realignment of parolees has also sparked other issues including an increase in inmate fights and assaults on deputies.

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McCarton Ackerman is a freelance writer and editor living in Portland, Oregon. He has been a contributor for The Fix since October 2011, writing on a wide range of topics ranging from medical marijuana in Colorado to the world's sexiest drug smugglers. Follow him on Linkedin and Twitter.