Mexican prisons overcrowded, run by inmates
13 April 2016, 17:35
Mexico City – Dozens of Mexican prisons are overcrowded and run by
inmates, with many sneaking televisions, cellphones and weapons into their
cells, a human rights body said on Tuesday.
The governmental National Human Rights Commission said in a report
that 71 state and six federal penitentiaries – out of more than 150 prisons –
are too crowded.
The overpopulation list includes the 836-capacity Altiplano
maximum-security prison, which houses the infamous leader of the Sinaloa drug
cartel leader, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, along with more than 1 000
The problems stems in part from the fact that 40% of inmates are
kept behind bars even though they are still waiting for rulings in their cases.
The commission also found that inmates govern themselves in 71
state prisons, but not in any of the federal jailhouses.
"There's possession of objects that are inappropriate, from
cellphones to televisions and weapons," said Ruth Villanueva, a commission
Some privileged inmates have one or two cells all to their own,
while in some cases 30 prisoners share a cell meant for four people, Villanueva
Two recent cases have put a spotlight on Mexico's prison problem:
Guzman's escape in July 2015 and a brawl that left 49 inmates dead at another
penitentiary in February.
Guzman was recaptured in January and sent back to the Altiplano,
where authorities have imposed extraordinary security measures, including
placing rebar in the concrete floors to prevent another tunnel escape and
posting a guard outside his cell 24 hours per day.
Following the deadly riot at the Topo Chico prison in northern
Nuevo Leon state, authorities found "luxury cells" with portable
saunas, aquariums and even one bar.
Guzman's escape and the Topo Chico brawl "demonstrated the
vulnerabilities and flaws of our penitentiary system," said commission
president Luis Raul Gonzalez.
"We can't wait for grave evens to happen in a prison to look
at the existing problem in this area and implement actions that, in most cases,
are stopgap measures," he told a news conference.
Pena Nieto vowed to reform the country's prisons following
Guzman's escape last year.