Nuestro Trabajo Derechos Humanos

Myths of petrial detention in México 18 de Noviembre del 2015

The manner in which pretrial detention is applied in Mexico is illegal, excessive, unjust, and costly. It is illegal because it goes against constitutional and international legal principles. It is excessive because it is used extensively and indiscriminately by the authorities. In Mexico nearly half of all “suspects” are incarcerated awaiting trial. These detainees constitute 42.7 percent of all persons in prison.

Pretrial detention is often applied unjustly in Mexico. Every year, over 40,000 imprisoned people, one of every four people charged with a crime, are acquitted by the courts and released. Yet, many of these detainees lose their jobs, suffer from poor health, and are isolated from their families as a consequence of their detention.

In addition, pretrial detention imposes high human, social, and economic costs on society and the state. In extreme cases, primarily in prisons used for pretrial detainees, occupancy rates are in excess of 270 percent. Overcrowding leads to the formation of criminal prison gangs, violence, and dangerous and unsanitary living conditions.

Also, society pays for pretrial detention in two ways. First, the social and economic contributions of the thousands of people who are incarcerated are lost. Second, the cost of the infrastructure and upkeep of 82,000 people in prison must be paid from tax revenues. It is estimated that the cost of feeding and clothing one prisoner in Mexico is over U.S. $ 7 per day (excluding prison staff’s salaries and maintenance costs). This translates to a daily cost of nearly U.S. $ 600,000 for the country as a whole.

In spite of this evidence, Mexican society has remain-ed indifferent to what Elías Carranza, Director of the United Nations Latin American Institute for the Prevention of Crime and the Treatment of Offenders, (ILANUD), has called “prison genocide,” and to the injustice of pretrial detention. The authorities consider pretrial detention to be a necessary evil and try to justify the magnitude of this practice—which goes against constitutional and international law principles—as a public security measure.

This monograph explores four arguments considered “myths” because they are unfounded, same that are invoked widely by the Mexican authorities to justify the continued and widespread use of pretrial detention as the backbone of criminal justice policy.

All these myths seek to convince the public to ignore the social tragedy of tens of thousands of human beings subjected to suffering in pretrial detention.

Referencia bibliográfica:

ZEPEDA LECUONA, Guillermo Raúl, "Myths of petrial detention in México", for the Open Society: Justice Initiative, Mexico, 2005, 20pp.