The federal prison system was put on nationwide lockdown after two inmates were killed and two others injured Monday during a gang fight at a federal penitentiary in Beaumont, Tx. The incident happened Monday morning, involving members of the violent MS-13 street gang, the Associated Press reports. The attack is the latest example of serious violence in the beleaguered federal Bureau of Prisons. The agency has struggled through recent crises, including staffing shortages, employee misconduct, escapes and deaths. The lockdown at the agency’s 120 prisons was prompted by fears of potential retaliation and concern violence could spread to other facilities. During a lockdown, inmates are kept in cells most of the day and visiting is canceled. Because of a spike in coronavirus cases, most social visits at prisons already had been canceled.
Nationwide lockdowns are relatively rare. The agency imposed one in April 2020 as coronavirus cases began skyrocketing in prisons, again after U.S. Capitol insurrection on Jan. 6, 2021, and shortly before the inauguration of President Biden that month. On Monday, officers at the Texas prison observed inmates fighting and responded to secure the area. Two inmates, Andrew Pineda, 34, and Guillermo Riojas, 54, were pronounced dead. There have been a number of security issues in the federal system in recent months, including several inmate deaths and stabbings. Several inmates have escaped from the prison complex in Beaumont in recent years and union officials have decried what they’ve described as a serious staffing crisis. The prison holds 1,372 inmates.