How to Survive in Prison in Mexico and How do their Penal System Work?

By | February 1, 2016
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Many people ask how to survive in prison in Mexico and how do their penal system work. The criminal law system is divided into two distinct categories, namely the federal and state systems. Major felonies, such as drug and human trafficking, fall under federal court jurisdiction. The circuit courts, district courts, and the Supreme Court of Justice are the ones that exercise utmost judicial power in the federal system. The president and four other judges comprise the first chamber of the Supreme Court. Their primary role is to deal with the penal affairs. This article will discuss how to survive in prison in Mexico and how do their penal system work.

The twelve collegiate circuit courts are headed by three magistrates. Their task is to deal with the constitutional rights of each individual, or what they commonly refer to as amparo. It can be likened to habeas corpus. The appeals, meanwhile, are managed by nine unitary circuit courts wherein each is headed by a magistrate. There are 68 district courts and each is managed by a magistrate. State judiciary systems follow the same pattern and are composed of courts of first instance, state supreme courts, and justices of the peace – or what others refer to as police judges.

In most cases, arrests can only be carried out with a judicial warrant, with the exception of those who were caught in the act of committing crimes. Criminal trials are usually carried out by a judge without a jury in nearly all cases. The judge can come up with a verdict based on the depositions, written statements. and expert opinions provided during the trial. There are instances wherein a testimony needs to be presented. Defendants are given the freedom to choose their own counsel; those who cannot afford legal fees are given the opportunity to work with public attorneys.

How the Mexican Penal System Works

The lawyer and the accused do not always meet prior the trial, and the lawyer may not appear during the important sentencing stage of the trial. The right to a public trial is fully guaranteed. Meanwhile, the right to confront the accusers is also given to the defendants. They’re also provided with translators if they don’t speak Spanish. The court also needs to carry out the sentence within four months of arrest for those who committed crimes with a maximum sentence of two years or less. For those with longer sentences, the court needs to hand down the sentence within a year.

The entire process often takes a year or more. Based on the studies conducted by the Amnesty International, there are people who have been held in custody far beyond the limits dictated by the constitution. The lengthy trial process and the incarceration of those who cannot post bail are the major reasons why many Mexican prisons are crowded.

How to Survive in a Mexican Prison

The Mexican prison is one of the worst places in the world. In fact, these prisons are often called “hellholes” and prisoners need to fight over food all time. Prisons in Mexico are notorious for gang wars and many heinous crimes as some of the most dangerous criminals are being housed there. In order to survive a prison in Mexico, you need to be respectful of their culture, language, and race.

Inmates in a Mexican prison are sensitive when it comes to racial issues. You will likely notice that people are grouped based on their race. As much as possible, try to stay away from gangs, gambling, and drugs while in prison.

Mexico has seven major drug cartels namely – the Sinaloa Cartel, the Juarez Cartel, the Beltran Leyva Organization, the Knights Templar, Los Zetas, the Tijuana Cartel, and the Gulf Cartel. It’s no surprise that the members of these violent and notorious cartels are scattered throughout the Mexican Prisons. The members of these crime organizations will try to smuggle drug paraphernalia, exchange them for money, services, and protection.

If you want to increase your chances for parole or conditional release, you have to avoid these gangs. Drugs will definitely get you into trouble and it can affect your health, too. Hepatitis C is rampant in Mexican prison and it is often transmitted through drug injections. So, you have to keep yourself drug-free throughout your sentence.

Also, do not get involved in sexual activities with other inmates to prevent contracting sexually transmitted diseases. Getting involved with the homosexuals will also make you more susceptible to rape and other forms of sexual abuse.

You need to be courteous to those in authority and to your fellow inmates. The Mexican guards are known to be cruel. There are numerous incidents of human rights violation and torture inside Mexican prisons. Prison guards often beat up hard-headed prisoners and put them in solitary confinement. So, show respect to the guards. Do not stare, swear, or talk back. But, if you experience any type of abuse, it would be better to come forward and complain. Be respectful but do not let the prison guard step on your rights.

You have to respect the privacy of other inmates. Do not snoop or eavesdrop and refrain from asking personal questions. Do not make funny or sarcastic comments about family photos and stories.

Although you need to be respectful, you also need to show that you are not a pushover to avoid being bullied. Stay away from danger or fights. Backing away from a fight does not imply cowardice.

The Mexican prison is filled with drug lords, smugglers, kidnappers, murderers, and sex offenders. So, you have to choose your friends well. Do not associate with prisoners who still have a “criminal mind”. Instead, hang out with inmates who are truly dedicated and committed to rehabilitation. Hang out with those who follow the prison rules.

Mexican prisons are dark and cold. But, they have some amazing programs, too. There are bible programs and prayer groups in the prison. In fact, Mexican prisons are open to religions and non-profit organizations who want to conduct outreach programs. The “Way to Happiness” Foundation is regularly conducting self-help seminars in Mexican prisons to help inmates deal with emotional turmoil and loneliness.

Now you know how to survive in prison in Mexico and how do their penal system work. Mexican prisons are not vacation houses. Still, you can make your stay tolerable by taking good care of your physical and mental health and by staying away from gangs and dangerous activities.

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