The research paper is a critical examination of Mexican prison and judicial system. To fully do this a recent documentary titled “presunto culpable” translated as presumed guiltily will helping the analysis. In the documentary, a young Mexican called Zuniga is picked from the streets of the country and he is sentenced to 20 years in prison. It is interesting to note that the relied eye witness gave shoddy evidence. With the release of the documentary in February 2011, controversies have a risen especially when the court decided to banned the documentary from being shown in theaters. On the other hand, the ban has been viewed as the government infringing on freedom of accessing information.
The intension of the documentary according to the producer and director was to make Mexican push the government to change the way with which it tackle issues of crime and sentencing individuals. It is evident that majority of inmates are being there despite the fact that they are innocent. On the other hand, the real culprits are walking free in the public continuing to commit other crimes. This is attributed to corruption in the judiciary as well as a poor system of carrying out judicial activities. It has been noted that the there are no juries and the judge only relies on the evident from the police. It is worth noting that although the documentary was banned, in March a court overruled against the suspension on the ground that it violated the right of Mexican accessing information (Hemisphere Briefs. Par. 12)
Additionally, Mexican prison is characterized with a number of bad things although there are some positive attributes of the same. These prisons are in the first place overcrowded. Poor sanitation comes with overcrowding especially in instances where human waste management is poor. Similarly, it is also evident that inmates face a nightmare of their lives when they only survive in very small quantities of food. The cubes that inmates are locked in do not have beddings, no windows; this is an inhuman environment for people to live in.
One might have heard stories relating to “overcrowding, rampant drug use, filthy conditions, torture, inadequate food, poor health care, disease and corruption” in Mexican prisons as well as judicial systems. Watching the documentary makes all these mentioned things a reality. Before entering the prison one is thoroughly searched by guards in full uniform. If one is driving the vehicle is thoroughly checked this is done in the second check point where all passions one has are critically examined. Additionally one is physically searched by the guards (Blake & Kathleen par. 8).
Additionally most of the inmates are confined to a small concrete wall of approximately 50 by 20 ft with no window. To make matters worse, no beddings are provided to prisoners for instance there are no blankets, beds mattresses among other necessities. Those who have managed to have a better sleeping place are attributed to the efforts of family member. It is also interesting to note that there are some inmates who have access to television, other electric appliances, well furnished bed among other good things. The explanation of how these things came in there is not known.
There are those prisoners deemed to be special especially those involved with drugs; they are locked in rooms made of metal doors. It is worth noting that despite being locked in they are engaged in various activities to help them pay for food as well as other goodies. The major activities prisoners engage in is sewing soccer balls which they earn about 8 pesos. Other activities include making soap, sewing cloths, and art among others.
In the movie Presunto Culpable Zuniga, before being tried he was sent to Reclusorio Oriente prison. He shared a cell with twenty other inmates. Just as previously described, the room had no beddings and Zuniga was forced to sleep on the floor under a cabinet. Since the place was very filthy, he was disturbed by the cockroaches climbing his face during the night.
Judicial System in Mexico
Commentators have dubbed Mexican judicial system to be one of the most ‘rotten’ arms of the government. The documentary “presunto culpable” clearly ascertains the findings of Amnesty International which reported that the country’s judicial system is seriously flawed. This has seen to it that offenders especially those committing murder are left without being charged while individuals who are not aware of such happenings are whisked, charged and jailed for many years without having a chance to defend themselves. Additionally, the evidences relied upon to sentence suspects are greatly doctored. In Mexico one is not innocent till proven guilty but always innocent. The case of Zuniga attests to this. In 2005 12 December, wile walking in the streets, he was arrested. His efforts to inquire why he was being arrested landed on deaf ears. He was held in incommunicado for two good days. He later learnt his charges after being jailed.
He was charged for shooting a member of a gang in his neighborhood. Despite the fact that the ballistic finding establishing that the person accused had never fired a gun crooked cops and a dozen of eye witnesses who claim to have seen him carrying o with his duties at the time the victim was murdered were used to testify against him. He was found ‘guilty’ and sentenced to 20 years in prison.
It is worth mentioning that the case of Zuniga is not a new thing in Mexico. Police men and women more often than not have solved cases by holding any person who will be found in place a crime was executed. This coupled with the availability of cooked up story given by an eyewitness makes things worse for the presumed offender. Additionally, considering the fact that the public put pressure on the judicial systems to act judges and prosecutors then play the same game just like the police. The aim is to make it seen by the public that work and efforts are being made to curb the rising crime rates. It is saddening that over 85.0% of those charged in this manner end up spending a number of years in prison for a crime that they did not commit. Practically, as previously mentioned suspected are presumed guilty.
Things are made even worse for suspects because the Mexican judicial system do not have juries. An implication of this scenario is that most of the cases brought forth entail no arguments. This means that even if one has lawyers, they cannot be given an opportunity to plead the case for their clients. Similarly judges I most cases do not even meet the suspect. With such a system where everything depend on paper which come from police officers who are corrupt the suspect then has very slim chances of proving his innocence.
Additionally, the laws of the land are highly coded. This thus leaves very little or even no room at all for judges to widely interpret it and give judgment. For that matter the law is rigid and end up negatively affecting the suspect. In the court room, the proceedings and evidences provided are just the top of the iceberg. This is because it is only a portion and specific part of the case is made known to the family members of the accused. However, the rest of the issues and more importantly the evidence that is on either side are usually kept away from the rest of the family and even the public domain (Luhnow par. 7). It will only be made available only after the case has been closed. Considering the time taken to appeal, and the hiccup associated with re-opening the case, and then one is left with no chance of getting himself out of the mess.
According to CBCnews. Par. 6. the law enforcers of the country have very little knowledge and indeed access to vital and simple forensic tools, this coupled with the fact that the country does not have a comprehensive finger print data base make it easy for culprits to escape the arm of justice wile the innocent are drugged into paying for what they totally do not know. Additionally, the culture of how things are perceive might have contributed a lot to what met Zuniga. It is apparent that a police officer in Mexico is judged with the number of arrest made. With this they can easily get promotion. On the same not prosecutors get fame when they continuously accused. Things are even made worse by the fact that individuals deemed to have committed serious crimes such as murder, drug trafficking among others are not allowed bail. For that matter, about 100,000 individual which represent about 42.0% languish in jail without facing trials.
In another twist of events, although the police have the mandate of enforcing laws, they infringe in people privacy when they arrest suspects without warrant of arrest. Similarly, a greater proportion of searches are carried out without proper documents to a certain the same. Just like in the case of Zuniga, majority of the suspects are arrested and sentenced to live imprisonment without prove of physical as well as scientific solid evidences (Foxnews Latino. Par. 3). This has been attributed to the fact that the authorities rush in trying to arrest the suspect while not actively engaging in active and serious detective.
Interestingly, the coupled that reviewed the case of Zuniga brought to light a shocking revelation with regards to he lawyer who was representing him. The lawyer was practicing on a fake permit which was a forged identification. It is worth noting that not only doest it shows incompetence in some of the lawyers but also the acme of corruption in he judicial system.
Due to the above mentioned issues with regards to Mexico judicial system, if one commits a crime, the chances of being caught and brought to books only stands at 2.0%. This is largely attributed to the fact that only about 12.0% of the crimes committed are reported to the police. It is worth noting that is small proportion of crime reporting is as a result of the relevant authorities, the police asking those who area reporting the crime for money in order for them to solve the problem. Failure to comply makes one to be made a suspect (McClelland par. 3). For this reasons a number of Mexican have resorted to seal their mouths even if they had good reasons to report the crime.
However, all is not lost because the government has strived in ensuring that reforms are put in place especially in the judicial system. For instance there have been some changes that require the judicial system to be independent from the political arm of the government. Additionally when one obstructs justice is liable for an arrest. More importantly, accountability of the judges has been advocated for although the government seems to be drugging its feet on the issue.
From the review of the documentary dubbed “presunto culpable” viewers are not only able to see the plight of Zuniga but how seriously flawed is the country’s judicial system. Innocent citizen are taken behind bars without solid physical or scientific evidence. The problem can be attributed to a number of factors such as unqualified lawyers who use forged documents, hiding of certain information till the case is closed, the culture of arresting and accusing as it earns one reputation, corruption and highly codified laws which leaves no room for judgment among others. Nonetheless, it is apparent that the government is working hard in reforming the judicial system.