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Tijuana mothers protest move of prisoners to El Hongo

La Mesa penitentiary to house women and disabled

"How we can even go to visit them now?” - Image by Crisstian Villicana
"How we can even go to visit them now?”

On February 5 mothers of prisoners in La Mesa State Penitentiary in Tijuana demonstrated in front of the prison to denounce the financial struggle they have been through since their jailed relatives were moved to other houses of correction across Baja.

Lorena Flores Garcia who started the Association of Women Human Rights Defenders said that the decision made by the governor to relocate prisoners did not consider the economic effects on prisoners' families.

“I need to use a wheelchair, some of us use canes to walk. Couldn't they even think about having buses for transportation? We can pay, no problem. I mean, they moved them out to have more room in there, but how we can even go to visit them now?”

La Mesa prison interior

Most of the three thousand prisoners relocated during this year ended up in El Hongo, a maximum-security detention center opened in 2002. It is right next to La Rumorosa in the mountains, across the border from Jacumba, about 60 miles east of Tijuana's downtown. Some mothers who could barely make it for visits or to give family members money will probably be unable to make it.

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Everything from toothbrushes to uniforms with specific fabrics chosen by the penal system has to be paid by families, Flores Garcia pointed out.

El Hongo opened in 2002

“Human rights don't exist in there. You can be in there for stealing food, or accused of something made up, or actually because you murder someone, but it doesn't matter if you are innocent or you just commit a felony. All in there are treated the same. Their conditions are inhuman.”

Mothers are concerned about how authorities use statistics of smuggled drugs seizures in jail to justify security that borders on human rights violations, especially with older inmates, she explained.

From documentary A Special Prison for Mexico's Worst Criminals

The prisoners in La Mesa have had only a couple of hours outside their cells.

“They don't even get sunlight, they can't work or do exercise with the cells packed with people. It will be the same thing in El Hongo if authorities do not do their job properly. I want to invite the governor to talk with the relatives of those taken to El Hongo and realize there are struggling families behind each one of them.”

Until now, more than 3,000 prisoners from La Mesa have been relocated and authorities say La Mesa will turn into a minimum security penal site for women and disabled people.

Another obstacle for mothers like Lorena and all Tijuana population is that the judicial and penal systems have collapsed after the pandemic due to the cases piling up without any sentences. This forces those charged to stay in prison till their trials take place, which can mean months or years of jail limbo.

El Hongo was featured in the Netflix documentary series Inside the World's Toughest Prisons.

To watch free Facebook documentary on El Hongo, click here.

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"How we can even go to visit them now?” - Image by Crisstian Villicana
"How we can even go to visit them now?”

On February 5 mothers of prisoners in La Mesa State Penitentiary in Tijuana demonstrated in front of the prison to denounce the financial struggle they have been through since their jailed relatives were moved to other houses of correction across Baja.

Lorena Flores Garcia who started the Association of Women Human Rights Defenders said that the decision made by the governor to relocate prisoners did not consider the economic effects on prisoners' families.

“I need to use a wheelchair, some of us use canes to walk. Couldn't they even think about having buses for transportation? We can pay, no problem. I mean, they moved them out to have more room in there, but how we can even go to visit them now?”

La Mesa prison interior

Most of the three thousand prisoners relocated during this year ended up in El Hongo, a maximum-security detention center opened in 2002. It is right next to La Rumorosa in the mountains, across the border from Jacumba, about 60 miles east of Tijuana's downtown. Some mothers who could barely make it for visits or to give family members money will probably be unable to make it.

Sponsored
Sponsored

Everything from toothbrushes to uniforms with specific fabrics chosen by the penal system has to be paid by families, Flores Garcia pointed out.

El Hongo opened in 2002

“Human rights don't exist in there. You can be in there for stealing food, or accused of something made up, or actually because you murder someone, but it doesn't matter if you are innocent or you just commit a felony. All in there are treated the same. Their conditions are inhuman.”

Mothers are concerned about how authorities use statistics of smuggled drugs seizures in jail to justify security that borders on human rights violations, especially with older inmates, she explained.

From documentary A Special Prison for Mexico's Worst Criminals

The prisoners in La Mesa have had only a couple of hours outside their cells.

“They don't even get sunlight, they can't work or do exercise with the cells packed with people. It will be the same thing in El Hongo if authorities do not do their job properly. I want to invite the governor to talk with the relatives of those taken to El Hongo and realize there are struggling families behind each one of them.”

Until now, more than 3,000 prisoners from La Mesa have been relocated and authorities say La Mesa will turn into a minimum security penal site for women and disabled people.

Another obstacle for mothers like Lorena and all Tijuana population is that the judicial and penal systems have collapsed after the pandemic due to the cases piling up without any sentences. This forces those charged to stay in prison till their trials take place, which can mean months or years of jail limbo.

El Hongo was featured in the Netflix documentary series Inside the World's Toughest Prisons.

To watch free Facebook documentary on El Hongo, click here.

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