HomeNewsBriefExperts Warn of Challenges to Mexico’s Judicial Reform Rollout
BRIEF

Experts Warn of Challenges to Mexico’s Judicial Reform Rollout

JUDICIAL REFORM / 30 MAR 2015 BY MICHAEL LOHMULLER EN

Two investigators recently sat down to discuss Mexico’s ongoing judicial reforms, highlighting several shortcomings related to juvenile detention and police procedures that threaten to undermine new policies set to be fully implemented next year.

Speaking at the Wilson Center on March 27, Elena Azaola — a Mexican psychoanalyst and anthropologist — discussed her recent work investigating juvenile delinquency and the institutions available to help support at-risk youth in Mexico. Azaola examined the obstacles facing adolescents, interviewing a total of 278 jailed youths (aged 18 and younger) in the states of Coahuila, Hidalgo, Morelos, and Sinaloa.

Azaola found that informal institutions (family, friends, gangs, etc.) are the major forms of social control for these youths, with Mexican institutions largely failing to support them in their development. Indeed, 28 percent of the jailed youths said they had no dreams, trusted no one, and did not know or want to think about the future. Another 45 percent felt they would leave their prison institution in either the same, or worse, position as when they entered.

Azaola also found a general lack of knowledge and expertise in youth detention institutions. Overall, she said that Mexico needs to invest in prisons, developing effective intervention strategies for the social reinsertion of youths and their families into society, remarking that, “If a child goes in at 15, and leaves at 37, that person is essentially lost.”

Speaking at the same event, Roberto Hernandez — a Mexican lawyer and filmmaker who directed the award-winning documentary “Presumed Guilty — echoed much of what Azaola said, arguing that police and investigatory procedures remain under-regulated. He advocated for reforms that regulate how investigations are conducted.

Based on his work documenting trial proceedings and interviewing prison inmates in Mexico, Hernandez questioned the emphasis judicial reforms have placed on transparency, stating that while transparency regarding topics like police mistreatment of suspects is important, the vital issue of eyewitness testimony has gone relatively unaddressed.

For example, Hernandez stated that both judges and defense lawyers struggle to discount or refute eyewitness testimony (even if it is clearly inaccurate), a problem that is exacerbated by the difficulties defense lawyers face when trying to obtain evidence or argue whether police procedures in an investigation should have been conducted differently.

InSight Crime Analysis

Mexico is in the midst of implementing criminal justice reforms passed in 2008, substituting inquisitorial court trial proceedings — in which trials are conducted mainly through paperwork and defendants have few opportunities to communicate directly with a judge — with oral-based, accusatorial proceedings more akin to those employed in the United States. The objective is to bring greater transparency to court proceedings, as well as to expand the rights of the accused and institute the presumption of innocence until proven guilty.

SEE ALSO: Coverage of Judicial Reform

However, the rollout of the reforms has been slow: only four states have completely made the switch, while 25 have made partial changes. All 31 states plus the federal district are expected to implement the reforms by June 2016.

By most accounts judicial reform was crucial, as the previous system was plagued by corruption, delayed trial proceedings, lengthy pre-trial detentions, and the conviction of innocent people despite a complete lack of reliable evidence.

Nonetheless, as the investigations conducted by Azaola and Hernandez suggest, carrying out such a complete reform is fraught with complications. Azaola argued during the event that if steps are not taken to reform and regulate Mexican institutions and police procedures, Mexico may end up with a new justice system that works just as badly as the previous one.

Compartir icon icon icon

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Related Content

DISPLACEMENT / 7 DEC 2015

How drug violence turned one municipality in Mexico's turbulent southwest state of Guerrero into a ghost town.

MEXICO / 11 MAY 2011

Mexico's police seized an armored tank belonging to drug trafficking organization the Zetas in the border state of Tamaulipas.

MEXICO / 31 MAY 2011

Mexico’s Justice Department has opened an investigation into a Sunday night grenade attack on the Vanguardia newspaper, in the northern…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

We Have Updated Our Website

4 FEB 2021

Welcome to our new home page. We have revamped the site to create a better display and reader experience.

THE ORGANIZATION

InSight Crime Events – Border Crime: The Northern Triangle and Tri-Border Area

ARGENTINA / 25 JAN 2021

Through several rounds of extensive field investigations, our researchers have analyzed and mapped out the main illicit economies and criminal groups present in 39 border departments spread across the six countries of study – the Northern Triangle trio of Guatemala, Honduras, and El…

BRIEF

InSight Crime’s ‘Memo Fantasma’ Investigation Wins Simón Bolívar National Journalism Prize

COLOMBIA / 20 NOV 2020

The staff at InSight Crime was awarded the prestigious Simón Bolívar national journalism prize in Colombia for its two-year investigation into the drug trafficker known as “Memo Fantasma,” which was…

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – From Uncovering Organized Crime to Finding What Works

COLOMBIA / 12 NOV 2020

This project began 10 years ago as an effort to address a problem: the lack of daily coverage, investigative stories and analysis of organized crime in the Americas. …

ANALYSIS

InSight Crime – Ten Years of Investigating Organized Crime in the Americas

FEATURED / 2 NOV 2020

In early 2009, Steven Dudley was in Medellín, Colombia. His assignment: speak to a jailed paramilitary leader in the Itagui prison, just south of the city. Following his interview inside…