How will the prison system handle the COVID-19 pandemic? 

Mexican prisons are overcrowded and unhygienic, characteristics that would worsen the spread of COVID-19 

How will the prison system handle the COVID-19 pandemic? 
Since inmates lack basic services amid the coronavirus pandemic, how would this impact the prison system? - Photo: Yadin Xolalpa/EL UNIVERSAL
English 12/04/2020 10:59 Mexico City Editorial Actualizada 11:12
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Human rights groups have voiced their concern over the potential risk of COVID-19 spreading inside prisons all over the country because once coronavirus entered the jails it would quickly spread among the population and authorities. It would quickly become uncontrollable and would have devastating effects on inmates and their families. 

Once COVID-19 breaks into Mexican prisons, they would become contagion centers because of their characteristics, including crowded spaces, the lack of hygiene, and ungovernability.

In other countries, authorities are sending people who ignore the order to stay home amid the COVID-19 pandemic to jail, especially if they are infected with the virus. If this was the case of Mexico and those who have contracted COVID-19 were sent to jail, with their overcrowding and unhealthy conditions, it would represent a terrible scenario for inmates, employees, and relatives who visit the inmates. 

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Although the majority of Mexican consider that the risk of contracting COVID-19 inside prison is part of the inmate’s punishment for their crimes, they have to understand two things: prisons are readaptation centers, although they are far from fulfilling this role, and not punishment centers; secondly, it’s important to protect the relatives who visit the inmates and who could potentially spread the virus among other people. 

Basic elements such as having individual beds, running water, and sewage service are uncommon in Mexican prisons. Furthermore, some prisons have decided to cancel visits as a way to prevent the inmates from contracting coronavirus, this is not a measure that everyone will accept, which could result in riots, violence, or the risk of prison breaks since visits fulfill an emotional function for those imprisoned.

As readaptation centers, prisons must respect human rights. One of them is to guarantee the health of inmates while they are inside the prison, however, there is no physical distancing in jail. 

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