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Like a scene out of a Tim Robbins movie, 132 inmates escaped from a Mexican prison after digging a tunnel ten feet deep through the floor of an old carpentry workshop and cutting the fence to open the path to freedom. Nobody knows the whereabouts of the freed prisoners who should be roaming the desert near the town of Piedras Negras, right across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. Mexican authorities have alerted U.S. border patrol officers about the prison break so they can be on the lookout for convicts who try to flee across the border, and there's a $15,000 bounty on any information that might lead to the capture of each escaped inmate.

These escapees aren't white collar criminals, either. Homero Ramos Gloria, Coahuila's State Attorney General, said in a press conference that 86 of the inmates were criminals convicted of serious federal crimes like drug trafficking. Ramos's colleague Jorge Luis Moran, chief of public security in Coahuila, added that the prisoners may have gotten help from corrupt prison guards, though neither of the officials could say which gang may have been responsible for the mass escape. 

Things could've been much worse. Earlier this year, the Zetas drug cartel staged a riot in the maximum-security prison in Apodaca, also apparently with help from the guards. When the dust settled, 44 prisoners from the rival Gulf cartel were dead, and 30 Zetas gang members had escaped. This still wasn't as bad as the prison break in December 2010 when 153 inmates -- again, with help from the guards -- escaped just across the border from the town of Laredo, Texas.

Unfortunately, this probably won't be the last time something like this happens. Mexican prisons are notoriously overcrowded and corrupt. The more powerful inmates nevertheless enjoy relatively posh "luxury cells" while others live in abject poverty. In one prison near Acapulco, a surprise inspection revealed 100 plasma televisions, two sacks of pot, 100 cockerels for cock fighting and 19 prostitutes. There were also apparently two peacocks running around. Based on precedent, the inmates can just leave any time they want if they can bribe the guards well enough.

Wait a second, then. If Mexican prisons are full of plasma TVs, peacocks and prostitutes, what are the inmates doing rushing back to the outside world? Committing horrible acts of violence, that's what.

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.

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