Extortion of Mexico Inmates’ Families Underscores Corruption

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Authorities are investigating complaints by family members of prisoners in Chihuahua, Mexico that they have been forced to pay extortion fees in order to get visitation rights, highlighting the rampant corruption in the country’s prisons.

Family members of prisoners at the State Social Rehabilitation Center 3 (Cereso Estatal 3) in Juarez have said they have to pay up to $150 per month for the right to visit their jailed relatives, and to prevent the prisoner from being subjected to punishments, including strenuous physical activity, beatings and solitary confinement, reported El Diario de Juarez.

They also claimed that prison guards organize “parties” in which prisoners are forced to pay $37 to watch naked women dance, some of whom are female inmates (a plate of meat and two beers are included). If they cannot pay within two days, another $23 interest is added; further punishment comes to those who take longer.

Jorge Chairez Daniel, the spokesman for the state’s prison system, said he has not received any formal complaints but acknowledged the difficulty of monitoring the 500 guards working at the facility. The Juarez Attorney General’s Office will begin investigations into the complaints, reported El Diario de Juarez.

InSight Crime Analysis

The case highlights the dire nature of Mexico’s prisons, and the corruption that allows these poor conditions to flourish. The country’s severely overcrowded prison system is rife with abuses, including the denial of the right to a fair trial, cases of torture and beatings, and the inability or desire to prevent violent uprisings. Prison guards were also accused of involvement in a major Zetas prison break in Nuevo Leon in 2012, one of many instances of corruption and collusion.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Prisons

While human rights violations are rampant, the Cereso case is interesting because it involves extortion by prison guards and the targeting of family members. Extortion is a word commonly associated with Latin American prisons in general, but it is usually the prisoners themselves involved in the act. Powerful inmates who effectively run prisons in Mexico, Venezuela and Honduras force their fellow prisoners to pay taxes in exchange for a range of services. Prisoners in the region also run extortion schemes outside of jails, using cell phones to exact fees with the help of accomplices on the exterior.

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