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Federal prison system on lockdown after two killed at Beaumont prison

FILE - In this July 6, 2020, file photo a sign for the Department of Justice Federal Bureau of Prisons is displayed at the Metropolitan Detention Center in the Brooklyn borough of New York. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan, File)

HOUSTON, Texas  (KIAH) – Two inmates were killed and two others were hurt during a gang altercation at a federal penitentiary in Beaumont about 90 minutes east of Houston. Officials then put the federal prison system on a nationwide lockdown.

The incident happened around 11:30 a.m. Monday at USP Beaumont. Two people familiar with the matter told The Associated Press, the fight involved members of the violent MS-13 street gang. The people could not discuss an ongoing investigation and spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity.

The attack is just the latest example of serious violence within the beleaguered federal Bureau of Prisons. The agency has struggled through a multitude of crises in recent years, including widespread staffing shortages, serious employee misconduct, a series of escapes and deaths.

The lockdown, being instituted at the agency’s more than 120 federal prisons across the U.S., was prompted by fears of potential retaliation and concern violence could spread to other facilities. During a nationwide lockdown, inmates are kept in their cells most of the day and visiting is canceled. Because of a spike in coronavirus cases in federal prisons, social visits at nearly every facility have been canceled already.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.