A large majority of Mexican prisons have still not met the international standards required for accreditation despite an investment of almost US $36 million aimed at their improvement.
As part of the Mérida Initiative — a security partnership between the United States and Mexico to fight organized crime and associated violence — the U.S. government started a program in 2009 to support the improvement of Mexican prisons.
The objective was to help prisons achieve established international standards so that the American Correctional Association (ACA) could grant accreditation.
But so far just 56 of 389 prisons have met those standards.
Brawls, riots and extortion remain common in many prisons while escapes from the Puente Grande and Altiplano prisons by cartel leader Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán and a prison party hosted by another cartel kingpin are also indicative of problems that plague the system.
At the end of March, Interior Secretary Miguel Ángel Osorio Chong called a meeting of state government officials in which he stressed the need to address the prisons’ problems.
He told state Attorneys General and Public Security Secretaries that it was a priority to “establish order and discipline before there is another regrettable situation.”
A 2015 report by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), “National Diagnosis of Penitentiary Supervision,” found that many prisons were overcrowded and had deficiencies in both prevention of and response to violent incidents.
The report also identified that some prisons that had already met the 40 mandatory standards set by the ACA still had problems.
These included a federal prison in Chihuahua that was found to be overcrowded as well as having deficiencies in the application of disciplinary sanctions and a state prison in Ciudad Juárez that had insufficient preventative programs and failed to adequately respond to incidents.
Furthermore, it discovered that 35% of prison brawls reported had occurred in just six federal prisons, even though all of them have ACA certification.
Despite these findings, United States diplomatic officials maintain that there has been a reduction in crime in states where prisons have been granted ACA accreditation.
Chihuahua, which has more accredited prisons than any other state, is a case in point.
Homicide figures for 2015 were down a third compared to 2010 while kidnapping and extortion showed a 90% reduction according to statistics from the National Public Security System.
The United States Embassy in Mexico in conjunction with the Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) is currently working to help 90 state prisons achieve ACA accreditation with the hope that at least 60 will reach the required standard by August 2018.
Source: Milenio (sp)