Six out of ten Mexican jails are “self-governed” by prison gangs or drug cartels, according to a report issued by the country’s human rights commission.
Commission representative Andres Aguirre said that Mexico’s prisons also are plagued by overcrowding, a shortage of guards, and corrupt employees, who sometimes help with break-outs.
Mr Aguirre said 60 per cent of the 430 prisons or jails are controlled by criminal elements.
He added that the escape of 521 inmates during 14 incidents since 2010 – often with the help of corrupt prison officials – constitutes a grave problem for the country.
Earlier this month, more than 130 inmates escaped from a prison near the US border in Piedras Negras, Coahuila, one of numerous mass breakouts tied to organised crime in the past few years. Initial reports indicated the Piedras Negras inmates escaped through a 23ft-long tunnel. However, it was later revealed that they had merely walked out of the facility’s front door with the help of prison guards.
“A good number of [Mexico’s] prisons feature similar conditions to those at Piedras Negras,” Mr Aguirre said. The commission’s findings are a reminder of the challenges that await Enrique Pena Nieto, Mexico’s incoming president.
He has pledged to reduce crime in the country after six years of increased gang-related violence under president Felipe Calderon.