Contributor(s)Prison Insider


Between 2008 and 2016, Guatemala’s prison population increased from 8,158 to 20,697, almost 150%. The alarming over-population rate is close to 300%.

The number of prison homicides has also risen significantly in recent years. In 2016, the Centre for National Economic Surveys (Centro de Investigaciones Económicas Nacionales(CIEN)), estimated that whereas in 2012 the risk of dying inside a Guatemalan prison was three times higher than dying outside, in 2016 the risk was twelve times higher…

The prisons are controlled by “self-governance” gangs who decide what privileges and rights are accorded to inmates, often in return for large sums of money.

Former army captain, Byron Lima, convicted of killing Archbishop Juan Gerardi, was regarded as “the most powerful prisoner in Guatemala”. He was the head of an extortion network involving even Edgar Camargo, former head of the General Direction of the Penitentiary . Lima was killed on the 18 July 2016 along with thirteen others during an uprising in the Granja Penal Pavón. The incident had wide media coverage and gave rise to numerous questions within the Guatemalan civil society about the nature of the crime and prison conditions.

We thank Corinne Dedik, researcher in the Centre for National Economic Surveys (CIEN) for her collaboration and for having verified the content of this file

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Country population



Type of government

Presidential, democratic republic

Human Development Index