Prison violence has left 280 inmates dead in Venezuela in 2005, rights group says

Violence in Venezuelan prisons has left 280 inmates dead so far this year and has injured at least 449 more, a human rights group said Tuesday.

The organization, Venezuelan Prisons Observatory, said 44 prisoners were killed and 79 wounded in August alone.

The South American country has 30 prisons built to hold some 15,000 inmates, but they are crowded with about 20,000 prisoners. Observers say nearly half of the prison population has yet to be sentenced.

Drugs frequently move through the prisons, along with guns, knives and other weapons.

Last year, at least 327 inmates were killed in Venezuelan prisons, and 655 others were wounded, the human rights group said.

In some prisons, inmates have seized control of cellblocks or taken visiting family members hostage to demand their cases be dealt with more quickly, AP reported.

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