Mexican jail break brief

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More than 130 inmates escaped from a prison near the US-Mexico border Monday afternoon, highlighting continued chaos in Mexican jails.

Authorities discovered a 22-foot long tunnel leading from Cereso prison’s carpentry room to an exit near a jail tower in the city of Piedras Negras, across the border from Eagle Pass, Texas. The fugitives then cut through a chain link fence and fled, according to CNN.

Milenio reported that police arrested three female escapees hiding in the carpentry room, though the remaining 129 have yet to be captured. The Mexican government is offering rewards of 200,000 pesos ($15,600) for information leading to the capture of each inmate.

Coahuila state’s attorney general, Homero Ramos Gloria, said 86 of the escaped inmates were serving time or awaiting trials for federal crimes such as drug trafficking.

The prison housed some 730 inmates, but had a capacity for nearly 1,000, the Daily Nation reported Ramos Gloria as saying. Authorities have detained the prison’s director and two other prison inmates until more information is uncovered about the break.

InSight Crime Analysis

The mass escape in Piedras Negras follows similar prison breaks throughout Mexico, especially its northern provinces. In December 2010, some 140 inmates escaped from a Nuevo Laredo prison in the northeastern state of Tamaulipas. The escapes are often organized by criminal groups, as was the case at a prison in Apodaca, where the Zetas drug cartel arranged the escape of 30 of its members, who then slaughtered 44 other inmates belonging to the rival Gulf Cartel.  

The frequency of Mexican prison breaks poses a major obstacle to effective anti-crime policies, InSight Crime has reported, damaging the deterrent effect of jail time among criminals.

Analysts attribute the chaotic state of Mexican jails to corruption, human rights abuses, and overcrowding. Though the Piedras Negras jail was apparently not overcrowdedd, the country’s prison system as a whole is 123 percent above capacity, according to a Global Post series on Latin American prisons.

Mexican authorities have recently sought to tackle the overcrowding problem by contracting with private companies to build two private prisons by the end of the year, though, as these measures are unlikely to stem corruption in the prisons.  

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