From Reinserta they have problematized that the inmates are the ones in charge and that made it difficult to take the appropriate measures. (Photo: Cuartoscuro)

The COVID-19 pandemic paralyzed many areas of the country, including those related to social reintegration of people deprived of their liberty; however, problems experienced by this population did not stop and even they sharpened from the spread of the virus.

Saskia Niño de Rivera, co-founder of the civil organization Reinserta, explained in an interview with Infobae Mexico that after the detection of the first cases of the disease in the nation (at the end of February), in the prison system adequate sanitary measures were not taken to avoid contagion, Due to the ungovernability that persists on these sites, among other things.

“Mexico has a serious problem of ungovernability in prisons, which generated that the right decisions could not be made at the necessary times to prevent infections, « said Niño de Rivera, who also stressed that these could not be avoided, because » interns are the ones who rule and that made it difficult to take the appropriate measures ”.

According to figures from the organization Legal Assistance for Human Rights (AsiLegal), until August 4 they had registered 2,189 people deprived of liberty infected with COVID-19 in the prisons of the country, as well as 193 deaths because of this.

Also, 374 custodians and / or custodians of prison staff have also contracted the new coronavirus and 49 of them have passed away. In this context, 3,755 freedoms. The State of Mexico has been the entity with the most processes of this type, with 2,583, followed by Durango, 361, and Mexico City, with 321.

According to AsiLegal, almost 200 people have died from coronavirus in prisons. (Photo: Twitter @ GobCDMX)

According to the medical attention denounced that doctors who work in prisons have not received training to care for coronavirus patients, even when the National Law on Criminal Enforcement indicates that it is the responsibility of the authorities co-responsible, which in this case are those of the health sector and those of the prison system.

Likewise, half of the rehabilitation centers does not have the materials and hygienic conditions in their medical areas, according to data recorded in the CNDH National Diagnosis of Penitentiary Supervision 2019 and in state reports that they send to said agency to notify the number of positive cases.

Therefore, the panorama presented by COVID-19 also has made difficult the work carried out for social rehabilitation, because the overcrowding inside the penitentiary centers caused the spaces for educational or occupational tasks, will be used as bedrooms during this period of health emergency.

Another problem that human rights organizations have highlighted since the beginning of the pandemic for the social reintegration of people has been the closing of the courts, since a part of the population that is in prisons, could be free; However, before the stoppage of activities, their cases stopped.

In this sense, the lessons left by the COVID-19 pandemic regarding social reintegration are related, explained Saskia Niño de Rivera, with the ungovernability within prisons, which, in addition to everything, could be translated into other more serious situations and that are part of the attention to safety.

Overcrowding inside prisons is another of the problems that the COVID-19 pandemic exposed. (Photo: Cuartoscuro)

« How to put order in prisons if they can’t even determine that they will not receive visits to avoid contagion or that they cannot leave the cells. If the authorities They cannot put those rules, how to avoid other things such as cell phones or drugs”, Questions the also activist.

Despite the situations evidenced by the COVID-19 pandemic in the prison system, such as the overcrowding, from the perspective of Niño de Rivera, it will be difficult for this to change, since in practice, « the laws continue to be depriving of liberty » and from them it is possible imprison someone from the beginning of the investigation of their crime without determining that they are guilty.

That is why he said that it is urgent to rethink this system, since “it is not working as a society protection mechanism”. In addition, it is required that this aspect in Mexico be “solid to be able to consider a change in the security strategy, otherwise it would fail”.

Facing the « New normal »As Astrid Fonseca, AsiLegal’s research coordinator, stated in a column for the Animal Político portal, it is necessary to modify the conditions of overcrowding, overcrowding, lack of timely and quality medical care, the lack of medicines, a healthy, nutritious and quality diet, as well as the lack of policies that address the right to social reintegration.

This context, which is part of normality within prisons, denounced Fonseca, constitutes « A systematic violation of the human rights of persons deprived of their liberty ».

How social rehabilitation efforts were modified after the pandemic

Medical care in the midst of the pandemic has also been one of the most relevant problems for human rights organizations. (Photo: Special)

Reinserta’s work around the social rehabilitation in prisons, as well as other civil associations or foundations they had to stop. These were based on workshops to learn new skills, as well as generate a perspective of acceptance and self-care that will make it easier for them to adapt to life outside prison.

« But our work does not rest », says Rashel Cohen, founder of the Rebeca Lan foundation, which focuses on carrying out this type of help and rehabilitation tasks in female prisons throughout the country.

Although there is an important variety of vulnerable populations in prisons, such as elderly men or those who are in severe overcrowding, the Rebeca Lan Foundation has put the focus of attention on women, mainly because they have noticed that they suffer from abandonment after spending time in these places.

According to data provided by Reinserta, the 95% of women are forgotten by those close to them after five years of being deprived of their liberty. In addition, the 72% of convicts become mothers in prisons and the attention they receive from the associations is also directed towards the minors.

Regarding children, Niño de Rivera stated, it is necessary to develop tasks for the crime prevention with the aim that do not have an experience similar to that of their mothersTherefore, he said, “children who have contact with the prison system have a tendency to do antisocial activities and should also be protected”.

95% of women are forgotten by those close to them after five years of being deprived of their freedom. (Photo: Cuartoscuro)

For its part, the vision of the Rebeca Lan Foundation also focuses on the reintegration of the family, since they seek that the members of the same connect despite the circumstances and thus, when the member in prison regains his freedom, they will not meet people unknown or unrelated to the situation they had to experience.

In the midst of the pandemic, this foundation managed to 12 women’s prisons in the State of Mexico will implement video calls as a substitute for visits in order to avoid possible infections. This tool will go live next August 12 and the possibility of it being used for resume social rehabilitation workshops.

It is worth mentioning that this idea has been put into operation by authorities in other penitentiary centers in states such as Michoacan, with the objective of avoid riots by inmates who feel the need to know something about their relatives.

In this sense, the data from AsiLegal showed that until August 4 19 incidents of violence, the great most of them were linked to the cancellation of visits, while others to the poor response to address positive cases of COVID-19 in persons deprived of their liberty.

For María Massjane, a Tijuana woman who regained her freedom in 2019 and was benefited by the foundation’s actions both inside the prison and outside, these measures to be implemented will be utmost importance, because inside the prisons, he related in a telephone interview, one lives with the anxiety to know how the family is in times of emergency.

« Emotionally, » Massjane concludes, « It is healthy to know that there is this type of communication for contact with the family. During my stay in prison I met people who went into crisis because they did not know anything about their relatives in times of emergency, such as earthquakes, and this is also part of the re-adaptation”.


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