The warden of a jail in Zacatecas and the state’s prisons chief have been dismissed over a case in which a female inmate was allegedly raped by a guard.
Zacatecas Public Security Secretary Ismael Camberos said in an interview Friday that the warden of the Calera prison and the general director of the state prison system, Adán Jiménez Solano, have both been removed from their roles.
Camberos told Radio Fórmula that Governor Alejandro Tello ordered the dismissals, which come a year and a half after the sexual abuse allegedly occurred.
A woman identified as Brenda N. was arrested in August 2018 on aggravated kidnapping charges and transferred to the District Men’s Prison in Calera, a municipality 25 kilometers north of Zacatecas city.
She was held for two months in the prison, where she alleges the chief guard raped her and subjected her to physical and verbal abuse. She reported the abuse when she was transferred to a state women’s prison in Cieneguillas.
The head of the Zacatecas Human Rights Commission (CDHEZ) told the newspaper Milenio on Thursday that the alleged aggressor is “fully identified” and that the commission has asked the state Attorney General’s Office to lay charges and arrest him.
“He was the chief [guard]; after the events occurred, the man left the prison system,” María de la Luz Domínguez Campos said.
“There were female personnel [in the prison] but … not many; it was at the time when there were no female guards there that [the chief guard] took the opportunity to attack the victim,” she said.
Domínguez said that the victim – who remains in prison – has received psychological support since she first reported the abuse and that she has proved her innocence of one charge against her and is in the process of attempting to clear her name of a second charge.
She said that the CDHEZ issued a recommendation in December 2019 that stated that other guards at the Calera prison became aware of the abuses committed by the aggressor but did nothing to stop it.
“The fellow guards, observing … the circumstances, didn’t report them to their superiors,” Domínguez said.
The commission urged the state government to take action against prison authorities and asserted that Brenda N. should have never been held at a men’s prison.
Women cannot be incarcerated at a district prison because they are exclusively for men and don’t have the infrastructure or sufficient female personnel to attend to them, Domínguez said.
Despite its name, Security Secretary Camberos claimed that the District Men’s Prison in Calera is not exclusively for men.
Women can also be held there while they attend pre-trial hearings, he said, adding that if they are ordered to stand trial, they are then transferred to state-run women’s prisons. Camberos stressed that men and women are always separated when detained in mixed correctional facilities.
He also said that a warrant has now been issued for the arrest of the accused rapist but “he remains a fugitive.”
Zacatecas government General Secretary Jehú Eduí Salas also rejected the claim that the Calera prison is exclusively for men, adding that Brenda N. “was completely isolated on a [separate] floor of the penitentiary, under … personal protection, with guards.”
The Zacatecas prison system has had a difficult start to 2020. Seventeen inmates were killed during two riots at the Cieneguillas prison in the first week of the year after which the jail’s warden was dismissed.