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Rhino armored vehicles used by Federal Police. Rhino armored vehicles used by Federal Police.

Cartels seek ways to free their associates

New armored vehicles to reduce risk of prisoners being freed during transit

The leader of the Sinaloa Cartel must have made getting out of jail look so easy that other gangs are looking at ways to free jailed associates.

The Interior Secretariat of the federal government, Segob, has put in a budget request for close to 40 million pesos, or US $2.4 million, for five new Rhino V armored vehicles.

The reason: to be able to move federal prisoners securely between jails.

The government has determined that cartels and other criminal organizations are maintaining a watch over jails and prisoner movements, looking for opportunities to free fellow gang members, particularly when they’re in transit.

Moving prisoners is done for a few reasons. One is to deter escapes, such as that by Sinaloa Cartel boss Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán last July, while another is to relieve overcrowding.

The armored vehicles will permit moving high-profile prisoners with less risk of their being rescued.

An analysis of the need for the vehicles says the federal penitentiary system suffers from “problematic” overpopulation and overcrowding, deficiencies in health and criminology services and a decline in conditions.

Contributing to the overcrowding is the fact that more federal prisoners are being housed in federal facilities rather than state or municipal jails whose security measures are inadequate.

The government began a redistribution process in 2010, increasing the number of prisoners held in federal jails from 23% of the total to 47% by last year, shifting them from state and municipal facilities.

Moving those prisoners has required large mobilizations of security forces, including the Army, Navy, and federal and state police, along with agents from the Public Prosecutor’s office and personnel from the National Human Rights Commission.

Mexico’s chaotic prison system remains one of the foremost obstacles to a safer nation, wrote Patrick Corcoran of InSight Crime last month, pointing out that escapes are a glaring example of its defects.

That of Guzmán was just one. In 2010, 191 prisoners escaped from jails in Tamaulipas in two separate incidents, 30 got away from a Nuevo León prison during a riot in 2012 and more than 50 prisoners believed to be members of Los Zetas were filmed walking out the front door of a Zacatecas prison in 2009.

Source: Milenio (sp)

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