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Mexico: OAS International Forum on Prisons Spurs Mexican Reform Bills

(Mar. 12, 2020) On February 6, 2020, the Organization of American States (OAS) released a statement summarizing the results of a Meeting of Officials Responsible for the Penitentiary and Prison Policies of the Americas, an OAS working group tasked with the formulation of measures aimed at improving prison systems. Mexico attended the meeting, along with representatives of several other nations in the Western hemisphere.

During the meeting, attendees agreed that while the challenges pertaining to prisons in the Americas differ from country to country, most of the countries face certain common issues. According to research conducted by this working group, most of the OAS nations have severely overcrowded prisons, whose inmates are housed in precarious infrastructure without any consideration given to their different needs and circumstances. This is especially true for vulnerable groups such as women, particularly when they have minor children. The research suggests that such issues undermine efforts to rehabilitate prisoners.

Commitments

In view of these commonalities, the countries attending the meeting agreed to work on promoting initiatives for the humanization of prisons so that rehabilitation can proceed properly. Their initiatives include

  • taking steps to eliminate prison overcrowding,
  • ensuring that vulnerable groups such as female inmates are confined in appropriate conditions, and
  • implementing rehabilitation programs designed to foster the social reintegration of inmates.

Pertinent Legislative Initiatives

Mexico’s Congress is attempting to address some of these aspects through pertinent legislation.

Specifically, on February 8, 2020, the Mexican Senate announced the publication of a report discussing several bills currently under consideration aimed at addressing a number of prison-related issues. According to the report, one of these bills proposes instituting training programs in prisons to provide inmates with useful skills in preparation for their release back into society. Another bill proposes establishing programs aimed at creating appropriate facilities where female inmates may adequately raise their minor children while serving prison terms. Yet another bill proposes to establish prison libraries, which would provide inmates with educational materials on such topics as social reintegration, training, health, and sports. Reportedly, the Mexican Senate will consider these initiatives later this year.