World

This country plans to build the only island prison colony in the Western Hemisphere 

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TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Honduras plans to build the only island prison colony in the Western Hemisphere and send its most-feared gangsters there, tearing a page from neighboring El Salvador’s unforgiving approach to murder, robbery, rape and extortion.


Honduras’s progressive president once promised to address gang violence through systemic reforms to governance and the criminal justice system. Now, President Xiomara Castro plans to build an isolated prison for 2,000 gang leaders on the Islas del Cisne archipelago 155 miles off the coast, part of a larger crackdown following the gang-related massacre of 46 women in one prison.


Island prisons once were common across Latin America, with facilities in Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Mexico, Panama and Peru. Deadly riots, brutal conditions and bold prison escapes captured filmmakers’ and authors’ imaginations before the last island prison closed in Mexico in 2019.


In Honduras, authorities are betting that a return to the past will help stem the wave of violence, but skeptics say such moves are little more than optics, and fail to address the root causes of endemic violence.