In the country’s prisons, where 200 thousand 936 people are held, there is a danger of massive infections of the new coronavirus, civil society organizations warned.
The main risk is that in six out of 10 prisons the conditions to comply with the hygiene and healthy distance measures that the federal government has demanded to prevent the spread of Covid-19 they are “deficient”.
The 2019 National Prison Supervision Diagnosis, prepared by the National Human Rights Commission (CNDH), specifies that in 63% of the federal and state detention centers the material, equipment and hygiene conditions of the dormitories are deficient.
In addition, the text indicates that in 32.79% of prisons there is a deficiency in health services, while 33% are overcrowded and 32% are overcrowded.
According to the National Survey of the Population Deprived of Liberty (ENPOL), from the National Institute of Statistics and Geography (Inegi), 45.6% of those interviewed shared their cell with more than five people and 12.5%, the bed.
Also 30% reported not having potable water inside their cells and around 5% lacked drainage.
The Ministry of Health (Ssa) calculates that daily in federal prisons between 3 thousand and 3 thousand 500 people enter, including lawyers, employees and suppliers. Of these, approximately 400 are family visits by people deprived of their liberty; however, in state and municipal prisons there is no calculation.
“For now there are no confirmed cases within the detention centers, but once the virus enters, the contagion will be massive. There is no way to control with a large population, isolation zones they do not exist.
“They are not taking the outbreak seriously. In other countries where the Covid-19 is more advanced, it has arrived [a los penales], because it is very easy for it to enter ”, warned in an interview with EL UNIVERSAL María Sirvent Bravo, founder and institutional coordinator of Documenta.
Organizations like Reinsert, Documenta and Rights Without Barriers They explained that the main risk factors for people in detention, their families and prison staff are the lack of information, as well as medical facilities, insufficient health services, as well as the shortage of supplies and basic hygiene services, and their visits were canceled.
“Measures [de contingencia de la SSA] they seem viable for the vast majority of people, but they turn out to be complex to implement in the detention centers of our country.
“The authorities of the three levels of government must consider the prison system in their emergency plans, allocating the necessary human and material resources to deal with such a delicate situation,” said the Reinserta association.
For its part, Rights Without Barriers indicated: “People deprived of liberty suffer from a prison system in crisis that is not prepared to face the new coronavirus.
“They have a system characterized by various situations that violate their human rights, such as overcrowding, corruption, ungovernability, lack of water, supplies and basic hygiene services, which puts them even more at risk in the face of the pandemic.”
The federal government issued a protocol of action for the attention of Covid-19 inside the federal centers of social reintegration, which contemplates 17 thousand 58 people deprived of their liberty in 18 of those spaces; however, this population represents only 8.4% of the total number of inmates in the country.
The seven-page document proposes to develop a “wide dissemination campaign” on the disease in prisons, with the aim of promoting prevention and hygiene measures and limiting or restricting visits in a preventive stage.
In an emergency, it is proposed to isolate the infected people or transfer them to a nearby hospital if their condition worsens.
The problem with this protocol, civil organizations considered, is that it does not cover the entire national prison system, it only considers federal detention centers, which are the ones with the least overcrowding and the most hygiene conditions, while state and Municipal, where the vulnerability of the inmates is highest, are not taken into account.
Nor did they foresee, they assured, that the relatives are the ones who provide the inmates with supplies for daily life — personal hygiene items, money and even food — nor the limitations regarding health and hygiene services; for example, that there is not enough space to distance people with the infection.
Saskia Niño de Rivera, director of the Reinserta Foundation, explained that despite these efforts, there are three factors that work against the prison system: ungovernability, overcrowding and the lack of access to health for those who are in those spaces.
“The first characteristic generates corruption dynamics that are difficult to curb: you do not have control of people deprived of liberty, which is why any mechanism that does not seem to them is difficult for you to implement, you need their will.
“In addition, there is overcrowding and overcrowding in prisons, which does not allow you to implement a healthy distance if in a cell where four people must sleep you have 30,” he explained.
For many years, he said, access to health has been very difficult, the conditions in which they live unfortunately make them more vulnerable and prone to complications from the condition.
Actions to avoid outbreak
Activities to prevent contagion have been promoted in some detention centers.
For example, in Quintana Roo the days of the visit were reduced and the aim is to detect symptoms when entering the centers; In the State of Mexico, attempts were made to establish sanitary fences, but due to the volume of the population, it is considering suspending the visit.
While in Nuevo León, masks, latex gloves and antibacterial gel have been arranged for personnel who are in customs and gates.
In this state, cleaning and disinfection work was also carried out in family visit areas, private rooms, call centers, as well as in transit areas, and inmates were announced for symptoms. In the Federal Centers the visit was suspended until April 20.