The bishops of Venezuela are calling for a government investigation into the deaths of 35 inmates who raided a prison infirmary and died of overdose and intoxication, urging prayer for the deceased and their families. The Venezuelan bishops' Committee on Justice and Peace issued the statement after nearly three dozen prison inmates at the David Viloria penitentiary centre in the western state of Lara stormed the infirmary and ingested a cocktail of medicines including pure alcohol, anti-seizure drugs, antibiotics and hypertension treatments. Humberto Prado, director of the Venezuelan Prisons Watch, blamed the massive overdose on prison officials, who have been repeatedly denounced for “abuse, torture, lack of nourishment and medical attention,” which reportedly led prisoners to begin hunger strikes. The bishops' statement expressed concern that prisons in the country have become overcrowded and places of “violence, punishment and repression that weaken even further those who are deprived of liberty, instead of formation centers for social reinsertion.” Consequently, they said, the government should “immediately launch an investigation to clarify the circumstances surrounding the deaths and intoxications of the prisoners.” In addition, the bishops offered prayers for all those who suffer from prison violence each day and called for reflection on the value of human life and on the State's responsibility to protect it.
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