10/17/11 – On Saturday, October 15, in the border city of Matamoros, Tamaulipas, a dispute between two inmates turned into a two-and-a-half hour long fight. Municipal, state, and federal police, along with soldiers and prison guards, were eventually able to quell the violence, but not before 20 inmates were killed and 12 injured. The incident occurred in the Center of Executions and Sanctions (Centro de Ejecuciones y Sanciones), which hosts a high number of drug-related gang and cartel members. The State Attorney General’s Office (Procuraduría General del Estado de Tamaulipas) has taken up the investigation into Saturday’s events, while also passing the bodies off to the Medical Forensic Services (Servicio Médico Forense) for autopsies and preparing the Matamoros branch of the Victim’s Attention Committee (Mesa de Atención a Víctimas) to assist victims’ families in filing their complaints.
Riots in Mexican prisons are not uncommon. According to the Los Angeles Times, last week in the state of Nuevo León, which borders Tamaulipas, seven prisoners were killed in a Monterrey prison during a gang fight. In Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, another city on the U.S.-Mexico border, 17 prisoners were killed in an incident in July.
The Mexican prison system is notorious for its problems, ranging from prison violence to corruption among authorities to coordinated escapes. Jails routinely suffer from overcrowding and rival gangs members are often placed in the same prison, which contributes to prison fighting. In the State of Mexico (Edomex) alone, a recent report by the State Security Agency (Agencia de Seguridad Estatal, ASE) indicates a 67% rate of overcrowding, as its jails are equipped to hold 10,000 inmates, yet currently house an estimated 18,000. For its part, two to three more prisons are set to open in Edomex by March 2012, which will create 2,000 additional spots for inmates.