Contributor(s)Liga Mexicana por la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos | Prison Insider
Contact with the outside world
The penitentiary administration imposes obstacles to the maintenance of family ties.
In federal centres, only direct family visits are authorized and thorough procedures must be followed. The security measures make it that entering the facilities may last an average of two hours. Visitors report regular verbal and psychological maltreatment. Families must pay costs of accommodation and transportation to and from the centre - up to 25 hours away. The frequency of the visits is one hour every 15 days.
In state prisons, characterized by high levels of corruption, relatives must pay bribes to guards and prison leaders to enter, to get a place to sit or to lengthen the time of the visit. The cost of a visit can be as high as USD $20; relatives, acquaintances and friends can enter, as long as the “fees” are paid.
Phone calls are made in public booths. Inmates can buy a “Ladatel” card (for sale inside the prison) or make collect calls.
The use of mobile phones is officially prohibited. In practice, the family can take one to the inmate if they pay between 1,500 and 2,000 pesos (90 to 121 USD).
In federal centres, prisoners have the right to one call every eight to 15 days, up to a maximum of 10 minutes each. If a technical fault cuts off the communication, another call cannot be placed.
Sending a letter takes from one to three months, as it must be read in advance by the prison administration. Inmates must pay for stamps.
Mexican justice does not often resort to alternative penalties (60 % of sentences are for minor crimes).
In Chihuahua, Durango, Nuevo Leon and Morelos, prison sentences for non violent drug-related offenses have been replaced by rehabilitation and psychological support.
The Public Defender’s Office of the State of Mexico centralizes all the public defenders of the Federal District. This service is requested through the Public Ministry or the judge in charge of the investigation.
Few public defenders operate in Mexico. The Technical Secretariat of the Coordination Council for the Implementation of the Criminal Justice System developed a specific plan to strengthen the country’s public ombudsmen in order to effectively implement the new Accusatory Criminal Justice System. This system increases the number of cases that public defenders must attend.
The Mexican State initiated a process of reform of the penal system in 2008, transitioning from an inquisitive system to an accusatory one. All states had a period of eight years to implement the new system. Jalisco still has not effectively implemented the reform.
A 2012 report published by the Center for Research and Teaching in Economics (CIDE) states that most inmates in Jalisco are serving sentences for robberies of less than 5,000 pesos (270 USD).
The UN Special Rapporteur in 2014 documented known cases in which the constitutional limit of two years for pretrial detention had been exceeded.
The constitutional reform of 2008 provides for the establishment of judicial supervision of the enforcement of judgments. However, this provision has not been fully implemented either at the federal or the state level: enacted laws limit the ability of judges to control conditions of detention.
In a 2014 report, the UN Special Rapporteur denounced that although detention must be subject to judicial control, the majority of those detained in the Federal Investigation Center have not seen a control judge.
In April 2015, the Supreme Court ruled that the arraigo regime (detention without charge for 40 days) was constitutional in cases of serious crimes. This practice has been condemned by several international human rights organizations.
The Mexican NPM, called the “National Mechanism for the Prevention of Torture”, was created in 2007 and is part of the CNDH. Between 2007 and 2015, this agency conducted 3,181 visits and 53 reports 1. The Government also allows for monitoring by the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). However, both organizations are only authorized to issue recommendations.
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The UN Special Rapporteur emphasized that the NPM does not record individual complaints of mistreatment or torture during its visits to prisons, nor do they follow up on ongoing complaints. Furthermore, reports and conclusions are not routinely drafted after each visit. The UN Special Rapporteur regretted the lack of coordination with civil society for prevention efforts and expressed their concern that the NPM needed authorization from the Public Prosecutor’s Office to visit people in custody of the Federal Investigations Centre (Centro de Investigaciones Federales).