PIEDRAS NEGRAS, Mexico - Up to 132 prisoners escaped the Cereso prison in Piedras Negras Monday afternoon, sparking a search by federal police and soldiers in an area close to the U.S. border. Eighty-six of those prisoners were serving sentences or pending trials for federal crimes, including drug trafficking. The rest faced state charges.
They escaped making a tunnel, believed to be almost 100 feet in length and 9 feet deep, in order to avoid a concrete perimeter fence. The tunnel started in a woodshop room located inside the prison and was built going north, towards an outdoor patio. It's believed they then broke through a mesh fence and fled.
Prison employees are being investigated to determine how the prison break occurred. Coahuila state's Attorney General Homero Ramos Gloria says the director of the prison in Piedras Negras and two other employees have been detained for investigation.
Mexican officials are appealing to the United States for help in capturing all the escapees. The Zocala newspaper reports Mexican officials are offering cash rewards for every prisoner caught.
In December 2010, 153 inmates escaped from a prison in the northern city of Nuevo Laredo, right across from Laredo, Texas. Authorities charged 41 guards with aiding the inmates in that escape. Mexico's drug gangs frequently try to break their members out of prison.