Mexico Deadly Inmate Riot Underscores Poor Prison Conditions

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A prison riot in the northern state of Tamaulipas left at least 31 people dead and at least another 13 wounded, pointing to the problem of overcrowding and violence in prisons throughout the region. 

The inmate fight broke out in a medium security prison built to house 2,000 inmates, but actually houses 3,000 men and women, according to La Jornada

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Problems like riots, mass breakouts and even prison takeovers affect penitenciaries across the region, from Mexico to Venezuela to El Salvador. 

Part of the problem is that improving prison conditions is a low priority for governments struggling to improve security. For governments looking to show voters that they are taking action to lower crime rates, spending money on prison reform can incite public anger. In Peru, when the government tried to take steps to expand an overcrowded prison last December, the local town held a week of violent protests.

This is an isolated example, but it explains in part why prison reform is a tough political issue for any government to take on. It is particularly difficult in Latin America where governments may have limited resources and must prioritize improving citizen security by other means. Consequently, prison systems in Mexico and elsewhere remain neglected, overcrowded and prone to violence and abuse. 

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