Treatment and physical conditions in prisons and detention centers were often harsh and life threatening, most notably in state-level prisons, due to corruption, overcrowding, prisoner abuse, alcohol and drug addiction, and loss of security and control.
Physical Conditions: According to the National Security Commission (CNS, formerly known as the Secretariat of Public Security), as of June there were 254,641 prisoners, approximately 27 percent above capacity, in 386 facilities, consisting of 17 federal prisons, 293 state-level facilities, and 76 municipal facilities. An estimated 95 percent of inmates were men. The official number of juvenile inmates was unknown on a national level due to the decentralized recordkeeping for juvenile inmates.
Health and sanitary conditions were poor, and most prisons did not offer psychiatric care. Prisons often were staffed with poorly trained, underpaid, and corrupt correctional officers, and authorities occasionally placed prisoners in solitary confinement indefinitely. Prisoners often had to bribe guards to acquire food, medicine, and other necessities. Authorities held pretrial detainees together with convicted criminals. Prison overcrowding continued to threaten health and life, particularly in the state of Baja California, where the state sought to address its high incarceration rate (nearly three times the national average) through a combination of increasing facility capacity, early parole, and transfer of federal prisoners to facilities elsewhere. The CNDH noted a lack of access to adequate health care was a significant problem. Prisoners generally had access to potable water. Food quality and quantity varied by facility, with internationally accredited prisons generally having the highest standards.
The CNDH continued to report conditions for female prisoners were inferior to those for men, particularly for women who lived with their children in prison, due to a lack of appropriate living facilities and specialized medical care. There were reports women who lived with their children in prison did not receive extra food or assistance. There continued to be reports of physical and sexual abuse of female detainees. A CNDH report released in June 2013 found prison conditions for female inmates did not meet national or international human rights standards. Specifically, the CNDH stated female inmates were inadequately prepared to return to society, experienced inhuman treatment, lacked appropriate health-care services, and received inferior legal and judicial services. Following the release of the CNDH report, the American Correctional Association (ACA) conferred international accreditation upon two state correctional facilities for women in Chihuahua. As part of its accreditation process, the ACA assesses the facility’s administration and management, staff training, adequacy of medical services, sanitation, use of segregation and detention, incidents of violence, crowding, and provisions of basic services.
In 2012 the CNDH reported organized crime controlled 60 percent of prisons. It indicated prisons in the Federal District and the states of Mexico, Tamaulipas, Nuevo Leon, Quintana Roo, Oaxaca, Guerrero, Tabasco, and Nayarit had the worst prison conditions.
Administration: There were improvements in recordkeeping in the federal prison system, largely due to a transition from a paper file system to electronic recordkeeping. At some state prisons, recordkeeping remained inadequate. Some states instituted mechanisms for alternative justice, including drug diversion courts, for nonviolent offenders.
Prisoners and detainees generally had reasonable access to visitors and could observe religious practices. While prisoners and detainees could lodge complaints about human rights violations, access to justice was inconsistent, and authorities generally did not publicly release the results of investigations. The CNDH has an ombudsman dedicated to prison problems, but it does not provide legal representation for prisoners.
Independent Monitoring: The government permitted independent monitoring of prison conditions by the International Committee of the Red Cross, the CNDH, and state human rights commissions. As of August 31, the CNDH made 127 visits to prisons, 282 visits to detention centers, and one visit to a military prison to monitor conditions.
Independent monitors are generally limited to making recommendations to authorities to improve prison conditions. The federal system made some improvements based on these recommendations.
Improvements: The federal government opened two new prisons in Durango and Chiapas, each with a capacity of 2,500 prisoners. As of September, four additional facilities were under construction. The additional capacity alleviated some of the overcrowding in state prisons holding federal prison inmates. Both federal and state facilities continued to seek international accreditation from the ACA, which requires demonstrated compliance with a variety of international standards. As of August 19, eight federal prisons, one federal correctional training academy, eight state prisons in Chihuahua, one state prison in Baja California, and one state prison in the state of Mexico had ACA accreditation. Since beginning the accreditation process, Chihuahua’s prisons experienced sharp decreases in deaths, escapes, and riots. In 2013 there was only one violence-related death in Chihuahua’s prison facilities, compared with 216 deaths in 2010. Four states had opened drug-treatment courts since 2009. The courts enable participants to receive counseling and treatment for their addiction rather than serving time in a correctional facility.