In Chiapas Women's Prison, Cold Hours Pass Slowly

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Mexican women imprisoned in the highlands of Chiapas struggle over scarce resources in crowded rooms. The nights are cold and the days are long. One woman says she's learned to read and write and make paper flowers to sell.

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Inmates Can't 'Get Along'


Del Pino Estrada maintains that the women's area of the prison is not overcrowded and that problems exist among inmates simply because they cannot "get along," not because they compete for resources.

"Of course, there are problems amongst [the women]," he says. "Problems because, 'You took my pot. You took my frying pan. It's your turn to take the trash out.' But these are just problems of living together. They aren't serious problems."

He says the conflicts could have cultural roots.

"We have communication problems," he says of the indigenous populations among the inmates. "Many [inmates] don't understand Spanish well and they can't communicate amongst themselves, so they create groups and problems."

Although he downplays the tensions, conflicts can turn serious between inmates, resulting in consequences such as relocation to prisons in other parts of the state.

Fabiola Mendez, 28, was transferred to Cereso 5 from the Tapachula prison in 2007 after she was found to have drugs in prison. Mendez, who was already serving a 10-year sentence for drug smuggling between Guatemala and Mexico, says a cellmate planted the drugs on her clothing.

Mendez says she has seen the same problems in both prisons. Overcrowding and competition for necessities were also common in the Tapachula prison, where about 148 women share 120 beds, she says.

She says the hardest part of her transfer to San Cristobal is that she is now 210 kilometers away from Tapachula, an eight-hour journey from her family's home.

"I am going to be here another seven years," she says, crying. "I'm far away from my mother and three children."

But there are positive aspects to life at Cereso 5 that inmates say they are grateful for. Perez says that she has learned to read and write since she first came to prison. She has also learned a trade--making paper flowers that family members can sell for her outside the prison so she can make extra money.


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Rosario Adriana Alcazar Gonzalez joined the Global Press Institute as part of its inaugural class in Chiapas, Mexico, in 2006. She resides in San Cristobal de las Casas.

Adapted from original content published by the Global Press Institute. Read the original article here:

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