MEXICO CITY — A prison riot in northern Mexico that left 19 inmates dead and more than 20 injured on Friday increased the pressure on the Mexican government to overhaul its overcrowded penal system.
“The penitentiary at Gómez Palacio continues to be a time bomb,” Jorge Torres Castillo, the public safety secretary in the northern state of Durango, said in an interview with the Televisa network on Friday.
He said the penitentiary in Gómez Palacio, a low- to medium-security state prison about 135 miles south of the Texas border, was housing federal inmates on serious drug and organized crime charges.
“I think it is precisely the federal inmates who disturb the internal dynamics of the penitentiary,” he said, “and they place the governance of it at constant risk.”
Because of a shortage of space in federal prisons, dangerous prisoners are often held in state lockups, which are typically far less secure.
It was a state prison in Zacatecas where 53 inmates, most of them drug traffickers, escaped in May with the help of colleagues on the outside.A fight among inmates in a state prison in the border city of Reynosa left 21 prisoners dead in October. The month before, 23 prisoners died in two riots in a state prison in Tijuana.