Fault Lines

El Salvador’s Prison State

Fault Lines reports on El Salvador’s war on gangs and investigates claims of abuse and deaths in prison.

In El Salvador, Gabriel Urrutia searches for his wife and stepdaughter, who were jailed in the country’s repressive crackdown on gangs that has resulted in nearly 70,000 arrests since March 2022.

The government suspended the constitutional right to legal defence and made it possible to imprison people indefinitely before trial. Like Gabriel’s family members, many others have disappeared into the country’s dangerous and overcrowded prisons. Human rights groups have documented many in-custody deaths since the start of the state of emergency.

Despite El Salvador’s new repressive reality, the policy is extremely popular and has helped President Nayib Bukele consolidate his hold on power.

Fault Lines travels to El Salvador to report on the war on gangs and investigate the claims of abuse and deaths in prison.