Mexico to close prison famous for drug lord escape

Mexico

Mexican federal police officer look on near the top-security Puente Grande prison, Friday Jan. 28, 2005, outskirts Guadalajara City, Mexico. The Mexican Army and federal police earlyt Friday seized control of Puente Grande, intent on purging away corruption that allowed organized crime leaders to conduct business from behind bars. (AP Photo/Guillermo Arias)

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico announced Monday it will close the “Puente Grande” federal prison made famous by the 2001 escape of convicted drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman.

The prison was known for such lax standards that it earned the nickname “Puerta Grande,” or “Big Door.”

The federal Public Safety Department did not give a specific reason for the closure, but said it was part of a modernization effort aimed at ensuring prisoners’ rights and rehabilitation.

The department said Monday all inmates currently at the prison will be transferred to other facilities. The complex, near the western city of Guadalajara, also houses at least one other state prison; it was not clear if that would remain open.

Guzman was serving a 20-year sentence when he escaped from the prison in 2001, purportedly in a laundry cart. According to other versions, he simply paid off prison staff and walked out.

Guzman would remain on the lam for another 13 years, before being re-arrested and escaping another Mexican prison through a tunnel. He was finally re-apprehended, extradited to the United States in 2017 and sentenced to life behind bars in 2019.

But the Puente Grande complex continued making news earlier this year. In May, inmates fought each other with fists and guns at the prison, leaving seven prisoners dead and nine others wounded.

Officials did not explain how the inmates got the two guns used in the fight. Of the seven dead, three were shot to death and four were beaten to death. Six of the nine injured were beaten and three suffered gunshot wounds.

The killings followed a prison baseball game, but it was not clear if that was related to the dispute. Nor was it clear if allegiance to rival drug gangs could have been involved in the dispute, as is often the case in prison fights in Mexico.

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