Lawmakers in El Salvador have approved a package of emergency measures giving the government freer rein to manage the country's gang-dominated prisons.

The measures make it easier for authorities to transfer inmates between lockups and boost security controls. That includes isolating gangsters and suspending prison visits with the exception of their lawyers, who would still have access but under increased scrutiny.

Authorities say jailed gang leaders often continue to direct their criminal operations from behind bars.

El Salvador is suffering a wave of violence that last year resulted in the highest homicide rate for any nation not officially at war.

The emergency package was approved Friday by a vote of 83 in favor in the 84-seat unicameral Legislative Assembly.