Mexico prisons 'need knocking down and rebuilding'

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Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Mexico prisons are operating at around 24.4% over capacity, government figures show.

The data comes from a document used to create Mexico's 2014-18 national infrastructure program (PNI).

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Prison capacity was around 197,993 in 2013, but at that time around 246,334 people were behind bars.

After Joaquín "El Chapo" Guzmán, Mexico's most infamous drug lord, recently escaped from a high-security prison for a second time, the issue of prison capacity is in the spotlight in the country.

El Chapo escaped from Altiplano, which has a capacity of 836 inmates but currently holds around 1,074, according to media reports.

"Prisons are saturated, some of them are at up to three times their maximum capacity. Where there are no spaces for sleeping, some people sleep hanging, [in sheets slung] from the bars," Guillermo Garduño, a security expert, told BNamericas. "The entire prison infrastructure practically needs to be built again, from scratch."

"Although in recent years investment has been made to expand capacity, the prison population has grown at constant rates so overcrowding in the system, particularly in state prisons, has not been reduced," according to the government document.

ICA, Mexico's largest construction company, might be interested in building more prisons if the federal government requires it, an ICA spokesperson told BNamericas on Tuesday.

ICA will sell around 40-50% of its stake in two correctional facilities that it built during the past federal administration, the spokesperson added.

The two federal prisons are located in the states of Sonora and Jalisco.

The prison infrastructure will be sold to "domestic partners, as is now part of the company's business model," the spokesperson said, without disclosing further details.

Former president Felipe Calderón assigned directly to ICA the construction of the two prisons out of a total of eight facilities.