A mass prison outbreak in Haiti’s Croix-des-Bouquets jail on February 27, resulted in the death of 25 people including a notorious gang leader, Arnel Joseph, and a prison director being killed.
More than 200 inmates escaped in the prison break, and as the inmates fled from the jail several bystanders were caught up in the resulting violence and some were killed.
Joseph was Haiti’s most-wanted criminal prior to his arrest in 2019 on charges including rape, murder and kidnapping. According to some reports, there’s a belief the jailbreak was an attempt to free Joseph.
After escaping in the prison outbreak, Joseph fled as a passenger on a waiting motorcycle which was later apprehended at a checkpoint. According to police report, at the checkpoint, Joseph attempted to shoot at the police stationed there who in turn fatally shot him.
Witnesses to the prison break reported hearing bursts of gunfire at around midday on Thursday before inmates were seen fleeing from the prison.
Employers at a clothing store nearby the jail said they were accosted by escaping prisoners and forced to give them clothing and other items.
The jail built by the Canadian government and opened in 2012, and located near Haiti’s capital Port-au-Prince had a maximum capacity of 872 inmates. However, at the time of the breakout on Thursday, it held over 1,500 prisoners.
Frantz Exantus, Haiti’s communications secretary, told a news conference on February 27. “Twenty-five people died including six prisoners and Divisional Inspector Paul Hector Joseph who was in charge of the prison. Among those killed were some ordinary citizens who were killed by the prisoners during their escape.”
Exantus said authorities have created several commissions and the ongoing investigation will look into who organised the breakout and why. He added in a Tweet on Friday that 60 inmates had so far been captured.
Helen La Lime, Haiti’s special representative of the secretary-general of the United Nations, said in a statement: “This prison break further highlights the problem of prolonged preventive detention and prison overcrowding, which remains a matter of concern that must be urgently addressed by Haitian authorities.”