40% of inmates at Mexican prisons are behind bars without ever being convicted of a crime

300 people enter prison every day in Mexico. That figure has caused a rapid growth of the prison population in the country; however, it does not indicate that impunity has been abated or that the violence has been halted.

Four out of 10 people who are in prison in Mexico remain detained under the legal figure of preventive detention, according to the activist Saskia Niño de Rivera.

Although that 40% of the prison population is not deprived of their liberty under the figure of informal preventive detention, it is a “sample of the abuse of this resource” by the authorities, explains the activist.

According to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR), there are cases in which some defendants have spent up to 17 years in preventive detention without receiving a sentence. One example is that of Israel Vallarta, one of the suspects in the Florence Cassez case, who has been in pretrial detention without a sentence since 2005.

Diego Valadés, former Attorney General of the Republic, assures that the problem is not the agents of the Public Ministry or the judges, but rather that the conflict lies in the fact that the justice institutions do not have the capacity to attend to “so many requests” a day.

Mexico’s justice system is overwhelmed even at a time when INEGI reports that only 10% of crimes are reported in the country, and 98% of those crimes reported never see a conviction.

“What happens is that the number of agents of the Public Ministry in relation to the number of crimes that are committed in the country, and are reported, have no proportion.

“It is materially impossible to demand that they have other types of results if the State itself keeps them in conditions of enormous disadvantage and, therefore, when they are accused, they are unjustifiably accused,” Diego Valadés explained in an interview with El Financiero.

When talking about the debate that will take place this Monday, September 5, in the Supreme Court of Justice of the Nation (SCJN) in which it will be decided if preventative detention is constitutional, Valdés added that Mexico requires reform in terms of access and administration of justice in accordance with the complexities of the country’s problems and with the demographic dimension that Mexico encompasses.

“Mexican justice would have to be thoroughly reviewed, not only because of preventive detention but because of the workload of the agents of the Public Ministry, because of the workload of the judges, because of many procedures that are poorly designed in the law and that is why the trials are often so long”, he concluded.

Mexico’s justice system is based on the principle that those accused are guilty until proven innocent and individuals are required to prove they are innocent while the government isn’t required to prove guilt in many cases.

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