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Mexico is a federal republic which has three levels of government: federal, local (state) and municipal. There are also three levels of criminal systems. The federal system governs certain crimes, including “crimes against the health”, or narcotics, all other crimes where the victim is the federal government, and other crimes established in special laws, such as fiscal crimes. There are 32 different local systems, one for every state. The municipal systems only govern minor infractions, felonies, and others. There are also three different jail systems. All municipalities have a smaller jail in the police departments and some municipalities have CERESO's (Centro de Readaptacion Social, Center for Social re Adaptation). The states have the well-known CERESOs. Lastly, the federation has CEFERESOs (Centro Federal de readaptacion social) These are, typically, jails of maximum security.

All the jails of Mexico have are overcrowded. Some of those, as in the case of municipal CERESO of Juarez, Chihuahua, is as much as 200% capacity. Typically, the jails are overpopulated by 30%. Some jails, like the ones of Mexico, D.F. have up to 10 detainees in a room meant for 4 people. These prisonders have to pay cash in exchange for a space to sleep or, if do not have money, are forced to sleep along the walls. All things in jail can be bought for a price. For example, one can purchase 5 minutes in a restroom (community), cigars, a pillow, etc. Of the prison population, 40% are non-yet-sentenced detainees. For the above reasons, Mexican jails have been named “crime schools” or “crime university”.

In order to address these problems, there is currently a “criminal reform” in progress that moves the criminal justice system from an inquisitor-accusatory to a 90% accusatory system. This reform, known as the “2008 reform” (started in the Federal Constitution in June 2008) is slated to take 8 years to complete. Some progress has been made in the state of Chihuahua, where there is a 100% implementation rate. For more information, see

However, most of the people do not like the idea of "criminals" in the streets and want to see them in jail so the “contrarreforma” (back reform) is currently underway, and thus the system is in reality back to the preventative prison. It seems that the social pressure is too much for the government. (See Chihuahua as example: in October-November it was included in the criminal code the “cadena perpetua” jail for whole life).

See Criminal Justice Systems Around the World

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