‘Terrorism Confinement Center’: El Salvador opens new 40,000-person prison

Police and army have arrested more than 62,000 suspected gang members and their collaborators since ‘state of exception’ declared in March last year

Authorities in El Salvador have opened what will be one of Latin America’s largest prisons, more than doubling the country’s incarceration capacity, as a government crackdown on criminal gangs continues to cause the prison population to soar.

The 40,000-capacity Terrorism Confinement Center was inaugurated on Tuesday to help relieve some of the overpopulation in the country's prison system.

Since President Nayib Bukele asked the country’s congress to approve a “state of exception” in March 2022, the police and army have arrested more than 62,000 suspected gang members and their collaborators.

Under the measure some constitutional rights have been suspended, including allowing authorities to make arrests without a warrant and giving the government access to citizens’ communications.


With nearly 2 per cent of its adult population behind bars, El Salvador now has the highest incarceration rate in the world.

The rising inmate population as a result of the anti-gang measures, which the vast majority of the population supports, has stretched the country’s already overwhelmed prison system. El Salvador’s largest prison, La Esperanza, currently holds 33,000 people, despite having a capacity of just 10,000.

El Salvador’s prisons director Osiris Luna said the new prison will span 166 hectares (410 acres), while 600 troops and 250 police officers will secure it.

“All those home boys, those terrorists in the organisation that made our beloved Salvadoran people suffer, will be house[d] and subjected to a severe regimen,” Mr Luna said on state television.

By 2021, El Salvador’s prison system had 20 penal centres with a capacity for 30,000 prisoners, holding 35,976 of them. – Reuters