LatinNews Daily - 09 June 2022

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MEXICO: First woman prisoner released following SCJN intervention

On 8 June Mexico’s Instituto Federal de Defensoría Pública (IFDP), a government-funded legal aid agency, reported that a woman was released from Santa Martha Acatitla prison in Mexico City (CDMX), the first such case following a visit to the facility last month by Arturo Zaldívar, the president of Mexico’s supreme court (SCJN), which uncovered widespread violations of women's rights.

Analysis:

Without naming the woman in question, the IFDP said she had been in prison for 16 years on minor charges and, despite a court order requiring her release 18 months ago, had remained unjustly incarcerated, mainly because she had been denied an “adequate legal defence”. The IFDP had been able to secure her release and return to her family, noting that she was the main source of household income, responsible for looking after a daughter and granddaughter.

  • The case has been taken as an example of how Mexican women can be ‘forgotten’ in a bureaucratic and inhumane prison system. Their plight was highlighted after Zaldívar met 220 women prisoners on a visit to Santa Martha Acatitla jail on 11 May.
  • On 18 May he ordered a series of measures to protect the rights of female prisoners. One was to secure “immediate, effective and quality legal advice” for detainees through the IFDP.
  • Zaldívar was reportedly shocked by the large number of women prisoners in ‘preventive detention’. In many cases these women had spent two or more years in jail before their trial had even commenced. Some women had been in pre-trial detention on minor, and sometimes allegedly fabricated charges, for up to seven or eight years.
  • Zaldívar said their situation was “alarming” and justified calls for a wider review of the preventive detention system. He called for the criminal justice system to be more sensitive, and for officials to understand that behind paperwork and case numbers there are real life stories.
  • IFDP said the released woman had like many others been “forgotten and abandoned” in the system, noting that it had discovered 25 cases of imprisoned women where all legal paperwork has been lost.

Looking Ahead: It is not clear whether the SCJN and other institutions are willing and able to implement major reforms. Zaldívar has however proposed a number of short-term measures, including obligatory case reviews after two years of preventive detention, and efforts to fast track requests for prisoner releases.

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