Petrol stations set alight, bridges blown up and police stations torched are just a few of the ways crime bosses in Brazil are flexing their muscles from within the confines of their prison walls.

The recent orders of destruction from the powerful inmates came after authorities led a crackdown on living conditions for those behind bars.

But the recent week-long violence in the northeastern city of Fortaleza has now compelled a group of Brazil’s senior regional justice ministers to call for gang attacks on infrastructure to be reclassified as terrorism.

This would ensure much tougher sentences, with those responsible being charged with carrying out violent attacks rather than the less serious crime of damaging property.

Criminals in Brazilian prisons, like in many other Latin American countries, effectively run the prisons themselves – with the authorities happy simply to keep the prison population behind bars.

The prisons clampdown is seen as the first stage in a co-ordinated campaign to bring greater law and order to the whole country.

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