A journey into hell

The Economist, 9/22/12

Compared with other parts of the world, the region [Latin America] locks up a larger—and rising—percentage of its population, though less than the United States (see chart). But few Latin American prisons fulfil their basic functions of punishing and rehabilitating criminals. Not only are prisoners frequently subjected to brutal treatment in conditions of mass overcrowding and extraordinary squalor, but many jails are also themselves run by criminal gangs…

In Mexico prisoners do what they please in some jails run by local governments. Last year police raided a prison in Acapulco to find 100 fighting roosters, 19 prostitutes and two peacocks on the premises. A few months earlier prisoners in a Sonora jail were found to be running a raffle for a luxury cell that they had equipped with air conditioning and a DVD player. In 2010 it emerged that guards at a jail in Durango had allowed prisoners out at night to commit contract killings.

Jail breaks have become increasingly common in Mexico. On September 17th more than 130 inmates used a tunnel to flee a prison at Piedras Negras, close to the border with the United States.

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