In a recent New York Times article, Javier C. Hernandez and Randal C. Archibold discuss one of the latest tragedies to befall the inhabits of incarceration. Specifically, the article focuses on a fire in a prison in Honduras where severe overcrowding, abhorrent conditions, and one inmate with a match are responsible for over three hundred deaths and counting. The article tells the story of how the guards were nowhere to be found as inmates burned alive in their cells while others bashed their way out of their cells, escaped, and are still at large. While this event is tragic, in the scale of things it barely puts a blip on the radar and the article acknowledges this, unlike most articles that cover similar events, which is why I decided to address it.
The real tragedy here is not what happened to the prisoners, though this event is obviously a horrific tragedy and I can’t state that enough; rather, the real tragedy is that the cause of the fire is something that has been plaguing the international community for decades. Prison overcrowding and horrid conditions are far too often the acceptable norm in modern society. Granted, there are plenty of exceptions, but the problem is out there and it has been out there for quite some time and it does not look like it is going away anytime soon. Central America for example, which is the focus of this article, is notorious for its overcrowded, poorly funded, and unsanitary incarceration facilities.
What makes this problem even worse is that one of the major sources of the problem is that people just don’t care. They say that the people in the prisons have made their choices, but then they become shocked when accidents like this occur. However, what they don’t realize is that these conditions make accidents like this one common place whether they are in the form or fires, riots, or other disasters. In Honduras alone, over the past few years riots and fires have lead to the death of hundreds of inmates and guards alike. Granted, the international community has a lot to worry about, but it needs to keep an eye on old problems as well and this is a problem that is not going to go away on its own.