The federal Bureau of Prisons placed all federal prisons on lockdown Monday after a fight at the federal penitentiary in Beaumont, Texas, left two inmates dead and two injured. The altercation involved members of the MS-13 street gang, The Associated Press reports, and the Bureau of Prisons took the unusual step of locking down the more than 120 federal prisons out of concerns that the violence would spread in cascading acts of retaliation.
The inmates killed in Monday's fight were identified as Andrew Pineda, 34, serving more than six years on a racketeering charge, and Guillermo Riojas, 54, sentenced to 28 years for carjacking and related crimes.
Lockdown means that prisoners are confined to their cells most of the day and visits are canceled. The Bureau of Prisons said it issued a nationwide lockdown "to ensure the good order of our institutions. We anticipate this security measure will be short-lived." The statement also said no staff were injured in the Beaumont fight and the public is not in danger.
"There have been a number of serious security issues within the federal prison system in the last few months, including several inmate deaths and stabbings," AP reports, and the agency's director, Michael Carvajal, is stepping down, the Justice Department announced in January, amid scrutiny of leadership.
An inmate was fatally stabbed at the Beaumont penitentiary in 2007, followed a few months later by an inmate strangled to death by his cellmates, AP reports. The prison is also significantly understaffed, and so many prisoners have escaped from the complex in recent years, with local law enforcement officials privately mocking its "open-door policy."