Haiti Declares State of Emergency as Thousands of Inmates Escape Prison Amid Surge in Gang Violence

Haiti's government has declared a state of emergency as thousands of inmates escape from its largest prison during a surge of gang violence.


Deterioration of Security and Escapes from Prisons

Haiti's government has declared a state of emergency after a surge of gang violence led to the escape of thousands of inmates from the country's largest prison. The government cited the deterioration of security, particularly in the capital Port-au-Prince, and the increasingly violent criminal acts committed by armed gangs. These acts include kidnappings, killings, violence against women and children, and looting. Finance Minister Patrick Boivert, who is acting as prime minister, issued a statement emphasizing the urgency of the situation.

The government also reported attacks by armed groups on two of the country's largest prisons, resulting in the escape of dangerous prisoners and causing deaths and injuries among police and prison staff. A United Nations' source estimated that approximately 3,500 prisoners escaped from Haiti's National Penitentiary in Port-au-Prince over the weekend. The UN mission in Haiti monitors incarcerated populations and humanitarian conditions in the country's prisons.

Escaped Prisoners and Response

According to Haitian lawyer Arnel Remy, the head of the Collective of Lawyers for the Defense of Human Rights in Haiti (CADDHO), a total of 3,597 prisoners escaped from the National Penitentiary. However, CNN cannot independently verify CADDHO's figures. Remy mentioned that the remaining inmates are being relocated to other facilities, and the penitentiary is now empty and under heavy police presence.

The Haitian Ministry of Communication acknowledged that heavily armed criminals overwhelmed the police's efforts to prevent the escape of a large number of prisoners. The violence resulted in injuries to both inmates and prison staff. Earlier, one of Haiti's police unions issued a plea for assistance from all officers in the capital who have access to cars and weapons, warning of dire consequences if the attackers succeeded.

Unprecedented Surge in Violence

Sources in Port-au-Prince have reported that the recent surge in violence, which began on Thursday, is unprecedented in recent years. Police stations, the international airport, and the penitentiary have become targets of attacks. Haitian gang leader Jimmy Cherizier, also known as Barbecue, has vowed to continue his efforts to oust Prime Minister Ariel Henry. Cherizier, a former police officer who leads an alliance of gangs, has faced sanctions from the UN and the US Department of Treasury.

Public frustration against Prime Minister Henry has escalated due to his failure to curb the violence and his refusal to step down, as agreed upon in a previous agreement. Caribbean leaders have announced that general elections will be held in Haiti no later than August 31, 2025. In the meantime, the country remains plagued by gang violence and unrest, with essential supply lines cut off by warring gangs.


International Concern and Evacuations

The US Embassy in Haiti issued a security alert, advising US citizens to leave the country due to the violence. The embassy announced that it would operate on limited functions on Monday. The French Embassy in Haiti has temporarily suspended visa and administrative services. The recent wave of unrest and gang violence has caused widespread disruption, with vital supply lines being controlled by warring gangs and more than 300,000 people being displaced from their homes due to indiscriminate violence and criminal activities.

The situation in Haiti remains volatile and precarious, as the government tries to regain control amid surging gang violence. International support and intervention will be crucial to stabilize the situation and restore peace and security to the Caribbean nation.