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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Riga Cites Lax Security After Collective Jailbreak

RIGA, Latvia -- Red-faced Latvian authorities said Monday they would tighten control over their jails after the Baltic country's biggest jailbreak in which 86 convicts, including two murderers, tunneled their way to freedom.

Despite a massive nationwide search, only 26 prisoners have been rearrested since they slipped under the perimeter fence of Parlielupes jail, in the town of Jelgava, on July 26.

The tunnel they dug begun in the sauna room of the open prison, whose lax discipline has been widely criticized.

"The department of prisons was obviously not ready for these kinds of liberal policies," said Prime Minister Valdis Birkavs in a statement. Birkavs has ordered Interior Minister Girts Kristovskis to sack the prison's director.

The Latvian Public Prosecutor's Office has opened an investigation which may lead to criminal charges against other members of the prison's staff.

Among the 26 recaptured prisoners were the two murderers, one of whom was shot and wounded during his capture by police.

A 500-lat ($900) reward for information leading to recapture has been offered by the government. Hundreds of police and security guards are still looking for the remaining escapees.

Leons Aira, the head of the investigation, told the daily Dienas there was currently no information about the whereabouts of the 60 ex-prisoners still at large.

He said conditions at the prison had helped them escape.

Prisoners at Parlielupes are housed in dormitories rather than cells. They wear ordinary clothes instead of the prison uniforms and shaven heads of other Latvian penal institutions.

"Sometimes girls would stand and throw parcels over the walls of the prison," one Jelgava resident, who asked not to be named, said by telephone.