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One of the deluxe units at Aguaruto. One of the deluxe units at Aguaruto.

Jailhouse luxury for inmates of Aguaruto

The Sinaloa prison was deemed 'self-governing:' the inmates were in charge

The Aguaruto prison in the state of Sinaloa operates on corruption and privilege for prominent inmates, accompanied by a frail security system.

The scene last week of the prison break of five inmates linked with the Sinaloa Cartel — including the son of Juan José “El Azul” Esparragoza Moreno, one of the cartel’s senior leaders — the 125,000-square-meter Aguaruto penitentiary is an example of a self-governed prison, a situation that has existed for several years.

Footage and screen captures taken from the penitentiary’s surveillance cameras obtained by the newspaper El Universal show inmates using mobile phones, devices that are forbidden by law and by the prison’s regulations.

In another still image, a group of women can be seen entering the institution, later identified by state officials as sex workers.

The video footage also shows that there are distinctions among the inmate population: some prisoners receive preferential treatment, such as cells large enough to have a small living room and large TV screens.

State authorities said last week that the five inmates who escaped enjoyed special privileges: larger cells with reduced security, special attention and special hours for visitors and the privilege of enjoying fresh air outside their cells.

These brazen instances of violation of prison regulations are examples of what the National Human Rights Commission (Comisión Nacional de los Derechos Humanos, or CNDH) calls “self-governance,” warning it plagued the country’s penitentiaries as early as 2010.

Self-governance by inmates dates back at least five years before the CNDH report, as there were 54 assassinations within the facility between 2005 and 2010, a figure that dropped to just nine between 2011 and 2016.

In 11 years there have been 26 attempted prison breaks, of which 18 were successful. There has also been one instance of rioting, 24 suicides and 149 fights.

During 2016, prison officials found handguns, assault rifles and even fragmentation grenades in inmates’ possession, along with cocaine, marijuana, cash, tablets, mobile phones and mobile broadband dongles, among other devices.

The Aguaruto prison has had two wardens in the past month and the prison’s security chief, José Mario Murillo Rodríguez, has been missing since last week’s escape.

Sinaloa Governor Quirino Ordaz Coppel said on Monday that authorities had the prison under control and announced the installation of a system to block cell phone signals and new surveillance cameras to replace those that were no longer working.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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