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PR Prisoners Rebel

On July 10, 1994, more than 8,000 prisoners in 16 prisons across the US occupied island of Puerto Rico went on strike to protest overcrowding and bad living conditions. Puerto Rico's 34 prisons hold almost 11,000 prisoners. For the first ten days of the strike prisoners refused to do their chores or work until prison officials agreed to improve prison conditions and they had met with prisons administrator Otto Riefkohl.

On July 20, 1994, the strikers at the Rio Piedras Correctional Complex in San Juan, which holds 2,160 prisoners, took a more active stance by rioting twice in the same day. In the first incident, at about 6:45 AM, when prisoners refused to go to court hearings and medical appointments, some 1,200 prisoners set fire to four staircases and attacked guards with clubs and knives. Twelve guards and 59 prisoners were injured in this incident, according to prisons spokesperson Wanda Rivera. She claimed the rioting and fires were under control by 11 AM. The second protest began at 2:15 PM that day while the press conference about the first incident was in progress. Three prison guards were attacked by prisoners with clubs. Rivera claimed this was repressed in five minutes.

The Rios Piedras prisoners reiterated their request to meet with Riefkohl and he refused stating "first they must meet with the prison directors." Corrections Secretary Zoraida Buxo suspended visits to prisons a few days after the strike began claiming "security."

On July 21, 1994, prison strikers at the Ponce Correctional Complex mutinied by setting their mattresses and belongings on fire. Eight prisoners were injured in the incident. Ponce prisoners had rioted two week before this but the details are not available to PLN at this time.

Rather than address the subhuman conditions and overcrowding to which Puerto Rican prisoners are subjected to Buxo told reporters "We're not going to yield to undue pressure." As we go to press PLN does not know what the outcome was of the strike and rebellions.

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