Two inmates die on average every week in Mexico City prisons

Between 2010 and so far in 2015, a total of 667 prisoners died in jails in Mexico City.
Mexico City prison system has an overpopulation of 67%. (Photo: Archive / EL UNIVERSAL)
Néstor Pinacho
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For the last five years, two inmates have died on average every week at Mexico City prisons, according to data obtained by EL UNIVERSAL from the Undersecretary of Mexico City Penitentiary System through the Transparency Act. Between 2010 and so far in 2015, a total of 667 prisoners died in jails in Mexico City.

One in every ten of these deaths, i.e. 79, were homicides, 12% were suicides and the remaining 523 deaths occurred as a result of disease, such as cardiorespiratory arrest, renal failure, pneumonia and chronic degenerative diseases.

"People die almost every day. Aggressions are not limited to inmates, often guards attack prisoners and these fights end up in injuries and even deaths on both sides," Dionisio, a former convict, explained.

However, statistics vary depending on the department. For example the Medical Services Department of the penitentiary system reported that 154 people died in the same period at Mexico City prisons, and that most of the deaths happened in two centers: Preventivo Varonil Oriente and Norte, with 50 and 58 deaths respectively.

Of the 108 deaths in these two prisons, the cause could not be determined in 60 cases, 17 were result of disease, 21 due to asphyxiation by hanging or strangulation and nine more by edged weapons.

The Reclusorio Sur prison and the Centro Femenil de Reinserción Social Santa Martha Acatitla for women were the least deadly prisons, with 12 and 3 deaths each.

Mexico City prison system has an overpopulation of 67%, i.e. there are 15,109 prisoners more than the capacity of all prisons, calculated at 22,411 inmates.

The Reclusorio Norte, that started operating in 1976, has capacity for 5,430 inmates, but until June 8 it had 11,251 convicts.

This means that between 12 and 15 inmates have to sleep in the same cell, according to Dionisio, who says that veterans sleep on stone beds while the rest sleep on the floor.

To make things worse, only 57% of the inmates have been sentenced, while an alarming 43% are behind bars under preventive arrest, according to José Luis Gutiérrez, director of ASILEGAL, a legal assistance NGO.

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