MEXICO CITY – Mexico’s National Human Rights Commission said Tuesday that most of the country’s prisons are ill-equipped, overcrowded and dangerous.
A report by the governmental commission said that of 130 state prisons inspected, 95 lack adequate guards and staff and 104 fail to adequately separate convicted inmates from people facing trial.
The most shocking part of the report was the overcrowding found at 71 of the 130 penitentiaries. Commission President Luis Raul Gonzalez said as many as 30 inmates were found living in cells designed for four people.
A federal prison, when it is overcrowded, the first thing that goes is its maximum-security status. That is something that has been the focus of attention. They are working on it and it’s getting fixed.”
-Ruth Villanueva, commissions inspector
Inmates were found to be partly in control of more than half the prisons, the report added.
In February, a brawl between inmates armed with hammers, cudgels and makeshift knives at the Topo Chico prison resulted in 49 deaths. Gonzalez said the government should not “wait until something else serious happens at a prison to turn its attention” to the problems.
Gonzalez said there had been only “minimal” improvement over the last year in the 247,000-inmate prison system. The report said only one of Mexico’s 31 states had acceptable conditions at its prisons.
The commission said it found similar problems at Mexico’s 21 federal prisons, although it said those facilities were somewhat better than the state prisons.
Conditions had improved slightly at the country’s highest security prison, the Altiplano penitentiary west of Mexico City, where drug lord Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman is being held, the report said. It said there was less overcrowding and control had improved at the facility, from which Guzman escaped last July, before being recaptured and returned in January.
The report said Altiplano was built to hold 836 inmates and holds 1,018.
“A federal prison, when it is overcrowded, the first thing that goes is its maximum-security status,” said commission inspector Ruth Villanueva. “That is something that has been the focus of attention. They are working on it and it’s getting fixed.”