A state prison in Chihuahua may have been blessed by the pope earlier this year but according to a study it is cursed by corruption.
Cereso Número 3 in Ciudad Juárez has also been certified by the American Correctional Association (ACA), whose process does not evaluate how the prison actually functions, says a report by the public policy think tank México Evalua and several other organizations.
It claims the prison, which Pope Francis visited last February, operates with a sophisticated network of payments among prisoners, guards and officers, that is controlled by organized crime.
New inmates can pay between 300 and 1,500 pesos to be kept apart from other members of the prison population, or obtain a television for 1,000 pesos. If they want a heater they can expect to pay up to 1,200 pesos.
For a cellular telephone the price is 5,000 to 10,000 pesos.
The study was carried out by interviewing inmates’ family members and former inmates, who gave testimony that “allow one to surmise that collusion exists between penitentiary authorities and organized crime within the prisons.”
One family member, said the report, said neither officers nor the warden control the prison in Juárez, but rather a high-ranking drug trafficker.
The study’s authors conclude that the evidence shows that ACA standards are not adequate for certifying penitentiaries from a human rights perspective. The accreditation, they said, leaves the word of inmates out of the process and allows the institutions to pay for a high-profile accreditation without having to change their procedures.
Certification standards are more about structure and administration rather than an assessment of how the prison actually runs, the study concluded.
Cereso Número 3 is home to 3,125 inmates and one of 30 state and federal prisons that are certified by the ACA, an organization whose president had some corruption problems of his own.
Chris Epps resigned in 2014 just before dozens of corruption charges were announced against him. He is awaiting sentencing for taking $1.4 million in bribes in the awarding of prison contracts while he was commissioner of the Department of Corrections for the state of Mississippi.
Source: Reforma (sp)