Sunday, February 25, 2007

Mexico City: 42% of Mexico's prison inmates are innocent

This is a bit of a shocker. The Open Society Institute, which has conducted studies in over 60 countries, along with Mexico's own Centro de Investigación para el Desarrollo (CIDAC), says that Mexico's prisons are filled, on average, to 130% of capacity with some at 300% of capacity. What's worse, 42% (90,000 inmates) of those in prison in Mexico have never been sentenced. They are legally innocent.

And the reason they've never been sentenced is usually because there is not enough evidence to convict them. So the prosecutors never call their cases. The inmates have no lawyers representing them to force the issue. So they are forgotten.

The OSI says that judges are loathe to release a possibly guilty person, prosecutors are given quotas of jailed persons to fill and police likewise have weekly and monthly quotas. This results, says the OSI, in police and prosecutors going through the paperwork formalities of multiple arrests for basically the same crime. OSI cites as a common example the arrest of someone for armed robbery. Then paperwork is filled out and the person, from behind bars, is arrested again for carrying an illegal weapon.

This results in a judge, or sometimes multiple judges, seeing an inmate in court once for one crime, then sometime later for another crime, instead of hearing all the charges at the same time which resulted from one arrest only. More paperwork, more bureaucracy. It's so bad in the courts, says OCI, that judges cannot physically hear all of the cases assigned to their courts. Because most courts still use typewriters to record proceedings, the proceedings last for hours. Judges end up having secretaries or even unqualified "stand-ins" fill in for them when they are too exhausted to continue holding court.

OSI says that, in spite of the judges', or the stand-ins', reluctance to release possibly guilty persons for lack of evidence, some 40,000 arrested people are released every year for lack of evidence against them. I would assume that this lucky 40,000 all had access to lawyers. For those without resources sufficient to hire lawyers to spring them from trumped up charges, it's just like in Russia -- tough Shishitski.

Pale Horse Galleries online store for gifts, collectibles, Mexican art and crafts. Feeding time at a Mexican prison. Note the 'recycled' plastic containers.

And inside the prisons life is hell. The prisons, according to OSI, are run by the inmates. Crime inside the prisons is much higher than on the streets. Murder and suicide rates inside the prisons run between 8 and 9 times higher than on the streets.

OSI says that Mexican prisons are "warehouses for human beings where any type of rehabilitation is unthinkable." "They are rife with corruption and lack health and hygiene sufficient for human survival."

The OSI charges that the prison system, "has been used irrationaly and indiscriminately and is a pillar of a crime policy made desperate by a justice system swamped by the crime phenomena and the citizenry's demand for security."

It's the Queen of Hearts approach to crime fighting. "Off with their heads."

Please visit the Pale Horse Galleries online store
for art, gifts and collectibles -- all hand made
by Mexican indigenous artists.

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