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Mexico Justice System Discriminates Against Poor, Young, Males: Report

A scene from a Mexican prison A scene from a Mexican prison

Those who fit the profile of a typical criminal in Mexico -- poor male youths with little schooling -- are more likely to be rushed through Mexico's justice system without a fair trial, according to the findings of a new report.

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The five-part report, released by the national anti-discrimination council Conapred in collaboration with social science research center CIDE, looks at discrimination in several areas of public life in Mexico, from the workplace to health and nutrition.

In its section on the justice system, the report states that because the police and the Public Ministry have quotas to meet in terms of number of arrests made and the number of cases resolved, authorities are under pressure to act without following due process.

As a result, the criminal justice system heavily favors Mexico's wealthier populations, and those without the funds to hire a private lawyer are significantly disadvantaged, Conapred finds. Seven out of 10 of those sentenced report never having met with a public defender. Unsurprisingly, the majority of Mexico's prison population is made up of males between the ages of 18 to 34 with no more than a primary school education.

Overall, Mexico's justice system "detains, processes, and punishes those who have less: less income, less education, and fewer social contacts," the report concludes. 

The president of Conapred said that the organization had prepared a briefing for Congress on ways to strengthen Mexico's legal system and make it less vulnerable to discriminatory practices.

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Conapred's report highlights a well-documented problem in Mexico: the majority of the population cannot expect to be treated in accord with due process in the justice system. A report released earlier this year by CIDE found that, among inmates jailed for drug crimes, 92 percent said they never saw an arrest warrant, while another 51 percent said they received no advice from their lawyers.

Part of the problem is the burdensome caseload faced by many public defenders, although Mexico has made some effort to tackle this. A three-year, million project under the Merida Initiative is aimed at increasing the amount of training that public defenders receive. 

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