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Old 08-23-2002, 04:36 AM
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Unhappy La Mesa Prison in Tijuana Mexico

La Mesa Prison


Please read this article. I have posted about this prison before. Now it's just sad to think that I was there less than a week ago visiting Chance. And now it's completely demolished. We stood on the roof tops (where most people sleep) in the center of "El Pueblito." These prisoners would make areas the size of an average bathroom feel like home. A home called a Caraca. Complete with bed, bathroom and kitchen. When I stood in line to leave, I talked with a girl who had lived in El Pueblito with her husband since she was 16 (she was currently 20). She birthed her child in the prison who was now 3 years old, and the child lived with them inside. As we walked down the narrow walkways to see the wrestling match (we paid 10 pesos to see), I saw many people slamming heroin, a place called the jungle, where before the trash gets taken to the dump, is dug though, picked at and sorted by prisoners. Chance also showed me one of the popular drug lords Caracas. Four foot high speakers in the front, 200 dollar bikes hanging, and motorized scooters for his kids to ride around in the prison. La Mesa Prison was original and very unique, but at the same time dirty and dangerous. I will miss El Pueblito. But IM glad I got a chance to visit one last time.
~Zoe Roe~
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Old 08-23-2002, 11:16 AM
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The Big House Is No Longer a Home
Mexico Relocates Inmates, Evicts Families From Notorious Tijuana Prison
Yolanda Olivera, left, Juana Pedroza, center and Cristina Ibarra, right, wait outside the La Mesa prison in Tijuana, Mexico, for word about their husbands or children who may have been relocated. (AP)

___ Mexico Justice ___
Mexico is struggling to transform itself into a rule-of-law state, where the law is a higher authority than the arbitrary actions of individuals. That cornerstone of democracy has long been missing in Mexico.
This occasional series will examine how the absence of the rule of law affects the lives of ordinary Mexicans.

• Convicts Are Condemned To a 'Paradise' in Mexico By Mary Jordan (February 3, 2002)
• In Mexico Hinterland, Life Beyond the Law By Kevin Sullivan (March 15, 2002)
• In Mexico, Justice at a Price By Mary Jordan (March 25, 2002)
• Torture, a Ghost in Mexico's Closet By Kevin Sullivan (June 2, 2002)
• In Mexico, an Unpunished Crime By Mary Jordan (June 30, 2002)
• Disparate Justice Imprisons Mexico's Poor By Kevin Sullivan (July 6, 2002)


_____News From Mexico_____

• Mexican Leaders Bet on Casinos to Boost Economy (The Washington Post, Aug 18, 2002)
• Capital Offenses: Snubbery In the First Degree (The Washington Post, Aug 17, 2002)
• WORLD (The Washington Post, Aug 17, 2002)
• More News from Mexico




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By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 21, 2002; Page A12


TIJUANA, Mexico, Aug. 20 -- Under cover of predawn darkness, 2,000 prisoners were handcuffed and moved out of La Mesa penitentiary surrounded by heavily armed police and soldiers today as the Mexican government sought to regain control over one of North America's most notorious prisons.

With helicopters flying overhead as an extra precaution, the most dangerous convicted murderers, drug traffickers and other convicts from La Mesa were herded onto buses and trucks and driven to a new prison in El Hongo, a small town 50 miles east of Tijuana just south of the border with California.

For decades, the wives and children of convicts have been permitted to live inside La Mesa, home to many of Mexico's drug traffickers. But today that practice ended, too, as hundreds of women and children were escorted out of the prison carrying their belongings.

Bulldozers this afternoon began to raze the center of the prison, called El Pueblito or Little Town because it resembled a neighborhood. There, wealthier inmates built more than 400 homes, some equipped with computers, phones, DVD players and tequila bars. The plan is to turn La Mesa into a conventional state prison -- with cellblocks, no frills and no families -- for the more than 4,000 inmates who will remain.

Mexican officials said La Mesa has been controlled over the years as much by inmates as state authorities. Previous plans to remove families and transfer prisoners were never executed because of fears of rioting and, many believe, because prisoners paid kickbacks to quash any proposed changes.

But in a surprise operation that involved the army, federal police and state riot police -- who surrounded the prison for fear of rioting -- about one-third of the inmates were removed beginning at about 1 a.m. Afterward, state social workers took away about 40 children who have no known guardian except for the inmate they were living with. Some of the children carried toys and had tears in their eyes.

"There was no reason for families to be in there. They were there because no one said they couldn't," said a spokesman for the state, Gustavo Magallanes. He said 43 prisoners who were considered the leaders of a drug distribution network that operated inside and outside the prison were taken to maximum security prisons.

President Vicente Fox said in an interview that today's move was a victory against impunity. He said the army, working with newly trained federal police officers in Tijuana, has recently scored "extraordinary results against organized crime and drug traffickers, and now we are correcting the prison. It will be a complete cleansing."

The Mexican prison system, which houses 165,000 inmates, has long been poorly funded and corrupted by cash from prisoners and drug cartels. Since Fox took office at the end of 2000, human rights workers have been granted greater access to the prisons. They have reported that a two-tier system exists, one for those with money and one for those without.

The National Human Rights Commission declared two years ago that La Mesa was Mexico's worst prison because of overcrowding and privileges for those with money.

Inmates and guards have outlined an extensive kickback system in the prison for the right to see a visitor or not to be beaten. While wealthier prisoners could rent the houses in the center of the prison, poor ones did not even get a bed. Some slept on the pavement of the basketball court.

Alejandro Gertz Manero, the national public security chief, who was involved in today's operation, said in a recent interview that it has only been since January 2001 that authorities had taken back full control of federally run maximum security prisons. That, he said, was when one of the biggest drug traffickers in Mexico, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, bribed his way out of a federal prison in a laundry bin. He is still at large.

"Ten days after El Chapo escaped, we took control of those federal prisons. We weren't in charge of them before. . . . The drug traffickers were the owners," Gertz Manero said.

He said the federal government is setting its sights on helping clean up some of the state prisons. Some, he said, "are not in the hands of anyone."

La Mesa is a concrete structure that takes up two huge city blocks. Today a wall of military and police trucks sealed off the prison and riot police walked the walls.

"It's the end of an era. It's a good change," said Jesus Blancornelas, a Tijuana journalist who has written a bestseller on the drug trade in this city, just across the border from San Diego.

He said a saying he heard in the United States, "Even if a jail is made of gold, it is still a jail," has never applied at La Mesa. Here, he said, life inside could be as good as outside and money bought just about anything.

More than 6,000 prisoners have been living in La Mesa, in a space built for fewer than 2,000. According to human rights officials' estimates, more than half the prison population is using drugs, including heroin.

None of the prison guards at La Mesa will be allowed to work in El Hongo, a state-of-the-art facility where guards have been training for months and are better paid. Unlike the practice in La Mesa, family members will not be permitted to bring in cash or food. A new banking system has been set up in which families can deposit money in inmates' accounts and each prisoner can spend a maximum of $5 a day. To further try to separate inmates' cash from guards, prisoners are to be issued electronic debit cards.

Veronica Vargas, 19, was one of the wives thrown out of La Mesa. As she boarded a bus with bags of clothes and other belongings, she said she had lived inside for seven months. She said she wanted to be with her husband who, she said, was serving a 30-year sentence for migrant smuggling. She said she and her husband paid $800 rent but she did not know where the money went.

"We had our little house, with a television and refrigerator and everything that we needed," she said. "But it still felt like a prison."

Researcher Laurie Freeman in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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Old 08-23-2002, 06:04 PM
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Wow! That was very interesting. I thought where my Albert was at over there in Puerto Rico was easy on them.......but I can't believe families were allowed to live in there with them!!!
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Old 08-09-2012, 10:32 PM
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Default I was there!

Quote:
Originally Posted by David View Post
The Big House Is No Longer a Home
Mexico Relocates Inmates, Evicts Families From Notorious Tijuana Prison
Yolanda Olivera, left, Juana Pedroza, center and Cristina Ibarra, right, wait outside the La Mesa prison in Tijuana, Mexico, for word about their husbands or children who may have been relocated. (AP)

___ Mexico Justice ___
Mexico is struggling to transform itself into a rule-of-law state, where the law is a higher authority than the arbitrary actions of individuals. That cornerstone of democracy has long been missing in Mexico.
This occasional series will examine how the absence of the rule of law affects the lives of ordinary Mexicans.

• Convicts Are Condemned To a 'Paradise' in Mexico By Mary Jordan (February 3, 2002)
• In Mexico Hinterland, Life Beyond the Law By Kevin Sullivan (March 15, 2002)
• In Mexico, Justice at a Price By Mary Jordan (March 25, 2002)
• Torture, a Ghost in Mexico's Closet By Kevin Sullivan (June 2, 2002)
• In Mexico, an Unpunished Crime By Mary Jordan (June 30, 2002)
• Disparate Justice Imprisons Mexico's Poor By Kevin Sullivan (July 6, 2002)


_____News From Mexico_____

• Mexican Leaders Bet on Casinos to Boost Economy (The Washington Post, Aug 18, 2002)
• Capital Offenses: Snubbery In the First Degree (The Washington Post, Aug 17, 2002)
• WORLD (The Washington Post, Aug 17, 2002)
• More News from Mexico




E-Mail This Article

Printer-Friendly Version

Subscribe to The Post


By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Wednesday, August 21, 2002; Page A12


TIJUANA, Mexico, Aug. 20 -- Under cover of predawn darkness, 2,000 prisoners were handcuffed and moved out of La Mesa penitentiary surrounded by heavily armed police and soldiers today as the Mexican government sought to regain control over one of North America's most notorious prisons.

With helicopters flying overhead as an extra precaution, the most dangerous convicted murderers, drug traffickers and other convicts from La Mesa were herded onto buses and trucks and driven to a new prison in El Hongo, a small town 50 miles east of Tijuana just south of the border with California.

For decades, the wives and children of convicts have been permitted to live inside La Mesa, home to many of Mexico's drug traffickers. But today that practice ended, too, as hundreds of women and children were escorted out of the prison carrying their belongings.

Bulldozers this afternoon began to raze the center of the prison, called El Pueblito or Little Town because it resembled a neighborhood. There, wealthier inmates built more than 400 homes, some equipped with computers, phones, DVD players and tequila bars. The plan is to turn La Mesa into a conventional state prison -- with cellblocks, no frills and no families -- for the more than 4,000 inmates who will remain.

Mexican officials said La Mesa has been controlled over the years as much by inmates as state authorities. Previous plans to remove families and transfer prisoners were never executed because of fears of rioting and, many believe, because prisoners paid kickbacks to quash any proposed changes.

But in a surprise operation that involved the army, federal police and state riot police -- who surrounded the prison for fear of rioting -- about one-third of the inmates were removed beginning at about 1 a.m. Afterward, state social workers took away about 40 children who have no known guardian except for the inmate they were living with. Some of the children carried toys and had tears in their eyes.

"There was no reason for families to be in there. They were there because no one said they couldn't," said a spokesman for the state, Gustavo Magallanes. He said 43 prisoners who were considered the leaders of a drug distribution network that operated inside and outside the prison were taken to maximum security prisons.

President Vicente Fox said in an interview that today's move was a victory against impunity. He said the army, working with newly trained federal police officers in Tijuana, has recently scored "extraordinary results against organized crime and drug traffickers, and now we are correcting the prison. It will be a complete cleansing."

The Mexican prison system, which houses 165,000 inmates, has long been poorly funded and corrupted by cash from prisoners and drug cartels. Since Fox took office at the end of 2000, human rights workers have been granted greater access to the prisons. They have reported that a two-tier system exists, one for those with money and one for those without.

The National Human Rights Commission declared two years ago that La Mesa was Mexico's worst prison because of overcrowding and privileges for those with money.

Inmates and guards have outlined an extensive kickback system in the prison for the right to see a visitor or not to be beaten. While wealthier prisoners could rent the houses in the center of the prison, poor ones did not even get a bed. Some slept on the pavement of the basketball court.

Alejandro Gertz Manero, the national public security chief, who was involved in today's operation, said in a recent interview that it has only been since January 2001 that authorities had taken back full control of federally run maximum security prisons. That, he said, was when one of the biggest drug traffickers in Mexico, Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, bribed his way out of a federal prison in a laundry bin. He is still at large.

"Ten days after El Chapo escaped, we took control of those federal prisons. We weren't in charge of them before. . . . The drug traffickers were the owners," Gertz Manero said.

He said the federal government is setting its sights on helping clean up some of the state prisons. Some, he said, "are not in the hands of anyone."

La Mesa is a concrete structure that takes up two huge city blocks. Today a wall of military and police trucks sealed off the prison and riot police walked the walls.

"It's the end of an era. It's a good change," said Jesus Blancornelas, a Tijuana journalist who has written a bestseller on the drug trade in this city, just across the border from San Diego.

He said a saying he heard in the United States, "Even if a jail is made of gold, it is still a jail," has never applied at La Mesa. Here, he said, life inside could be as good as outside and money bought just about anything.

More than 6,000 prisoners have been living in La Mesa, in a space built for fewer than 2,000. According to human rights officials' estimates, more than half the prison population is using drugs, including heroin.

None of the prison guards at La Mesa will be allowed to work in El Hongo, a state-of-the-art facility where guards have been training for months and are better paid. Unlike the practice in La Mesa, family members will not be permitted to bring in cash or food. A new banking system has been set up in which families can deposit money in inmates' accounts and each prisoner can spend a maximum of $5 a day. To further try to separate inmates' cash from guards, prisoners are to be issued electronic debit cards.

Veronica Vargas, 19, was one of the wives thrown out of La Mesa. As she boarded a bus with bags of clothes and other belongings, she said she had lived inside for seven months. She said she wanted to be with her husband who, she said, was serving a 30-year sentence for migrant smuggling. She said she and her husband paid $800 rent but she did not know where the money went.

"We had our little house, with a television and refrigerator and everything that we needed," she said. "But it still felt like a prison."

Researcher Laurie Freeman in Mexico City contributed to this report.
I was an inmate there from 1999-2004 I owned a curaca after a few years of renting. I would love to communicate with someone who was there then!!
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Old 08-09-2012, 10:36 PM
OhLiz OhLiz is offline
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I was an inmate in La Mesa Penitenceria 1999-2004 and would love to talk to someone who was there too! Liz
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Old 08-10-2012, 01:06 AM
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Crazy how prisons in Mexico are ran. My aunt served 13 years in Sonora and she also had what looked like a studio appartment. When we would go visit her all we had to say is who we were there visiting so they can take us right to her appartment, by passing the long line of visitors. She lived there with her husband, who was also a prisoner, and had two pitbulls as there watch dogs, crazy! Now that she's been released, I didn't even recognize her because of all the plastic surgeries she had done while in there...simply amazing.
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