Inmates are in control of some 60 percent of Mexico's prisons, according to a report by the government human rights body, whose details help explain how some 130 inmates were able to escape from one facility earlier this month.
The 2011 report on Mexican prisons by the National Commission of Human Rights (CNDH) found that 60 percent of the country's corrective facilities were under the control of criminal groups, El Informador reported.
Raul Plascencia, director of the CNDH, told a news conference that the prison system was going through a serious crisis, as Animal Politico reported.
The CNDH named 53 prisons as having the most serious degree of control by inmates. In these facilities, prison bosses charged personal protection fees, maintained prison cells, handled roll call, and controlled access to food and medical care. Some prisons housed small stores where inmates could buy “alcohol, weapons, drugs -- even fighting cocks and messenger pigeons,” Cronica reported.
From 2010 to date 521 prisoners have escaped, in 14 separate incidents, and 352 prisoners have died in clashes.
The CNDH reported that there are currently 238,269 inmates in Mexico's prison system, which has capacity for 189,397 -- meaning that it is more than 25 percent overpopulated.
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The damning report helps explain how 131 inmates were able to escape earlier this month from Cereso prison in Piedras Negras, Coahuila. CNDH inspectors were reportedly unable to enter the facility because it was "ungovernable."
The CNDH recommended decreasing the prisoner-guard ratio to one guard for every 10 inmates. In Cereso, for instance, the ratio was one to 70.
Plascencia said that in Cereso, prisoners held the keys to their cells and were able to move freely to all areas of the institution.
However, despite the chaos set out in the report, Mexico's prisons are still in a better state than those in Venezuela, where gang bosses known as “pranes” are said to control 80 percent of the country's prisons.