Penal Director Gunned Down in Coahuila, Mexico

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A retired military officer who acted as the prison system director for the Coahuila penitentiary was killed by armed gunmen Tuesday, drawing attention to the threats facing prison staff across the country.

Retired army captain Juan Manuel López Macías was gunned down Tuesday while taking a cab in Torreon, Coahuila, close to the city jail. He was killed with a high-calibre firearm, reports Milenio, an indication that the attack was carried out by organized crime in the country.

InSight Crime Analysis

This is the most recent attack carried out against a prison director, who are frequently co-opted by the criminal groups who control Mexico’s prisons. Prison staff who enforce security measures, take privileges away from prisoners, or who prevent break-outs may face kidnapping or death threats. Such was the case for the chief of security of the Culiacan penitentiary, who was kidnapped earlier this year after he thwarted an escape attempt by 38 inmates.

Thanks to these risks — as well as the collusion between prison wardens and criminal groups — the tenure for prison staff members is short. Those who are not threatened or killed are, more infrequently, fired or investigated for corruption. The former head of the Apocada prison, where a mass prison riot killed 44 people last January, was reportedly paid up to $40,000 a month by a criminal gang and is currently facing legal proceedings. 

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