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Mexico’s Prison System Yet Another Blemish for Fox

Council On Hemispheric Affairs

Monitoring Political, Economic and Diplomatic Issues Affecting the Western Hemisphere

COHA Report 06.07

Word Count: 2650

COHA’s Report on Mexico’s Prison System: Yet Another Blemished Aspect of Fox’s Failed Presidency

Analysis prepared by COHA Research Associate Sabrina Starke
Monday, May 1, 2006

The following is an executive summary of a COHA report on the Mexican prison system. For the complete document, please click the link at the bottom of this page.

Mexico’s prison system has reached a breaking point, and the Fox administration’s continued “band-aid response” has set the country on a path towards crisis. With the country’s level of violent crime reaching explosive levels, the failings of the criminal justice system can no longer be overlooked. If Fox, and his eventual successor, are ever to succeed in checking an expanding crime wave, they will first need to confront a penal system that currently is confronting a crisis of unprecedented proportions.

Like other Latin American countries, Mexico, for good reason, prefers to keep its prison system hidden from public view. With 191 inmates per 100,000 members of the general population, Mexico’s penal facilities are running at over 125% of capacity. These tenebrous statistics suggest that justice in the country is not only often skewed, but that poor and marginalized Mexicans bear the brunt of the system’s excesses. Literally bursting at the seams with what should be five-person cells, today each of these units actually house more than 20 inmates. As a result, Mexican prisons are natural breeding grounds for civic abuses, ranging from sexual outrages to ethnic discrimination. Clearly President Fox has not looked at this problem with any sense of urgency, projecting his prison strategy as merely one more aspect of his failed presidency.

Not all inmates suffer, however: narcos have effectively taken control at maximum security facilities, caricaturing the role of governance. The government has practically given narco leaders a de facto office from which they can conduct their business, allowing them to be equipped with any technology or device they desire to expedite their clandestine activities. Prison administrators, usually complicit in this outright system of corruption, claim it helps maintain order, yet in reality it only ensures impunity and offers no solution to the country’s epic crime containment problems.

In the face of this widening crisis, Mexican officials have only given lip service to the problem with empty reports and meaningless reforms. As a whole, the government’s approach to the crime problem has largely been viewed as a failure, and it is in the realm of the penal system where Fox has displayed a marked lack of political courage and constant vision in the face of a daunting challenge.

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