El Salvador's prisons are not just dangerous and ineffectual -- the maras, or gangs, actually run their criminal enterprise from behind the prison walls. An article from the BBC details how authorities often cede authority over much of what happens inside the prisons to one of the country's two rival gangs:
Part of the problem is the authorities' policy of dedicating certain prisons to one particular gang.
The idea is to avoid violence between rival groups, yet in practice it means the state has handed over control of the prisons to the gangs, argues Jeanette Aguilar, an expert on the topic at the University of Central America (UCA).
"The prisons have been the place where the gangs have moved towards institutionalising themselves. They have created criminal economic networks," she said.
Inmates at Ciudad Barrios happily refer to the prison as the MS's home or neighbourhood. Lack of supervision means prisoners can easily get hold of the phones they allegedly use to arrange murders and illegal deals.(more).