Tijuana, Baja California, September 9, 2016 — Deputy Assistant Secretary Daniel S. Foote from the State Department’s Bureau of International Narcotics and Law Enforcement Affairs (INL) today completed a two-day visit to Tijuana where he visited the CERESO El Hongo II state penitentiary facility and the La Mesa courthouse, Tijuana. Both CERESO El Hongo II and the La Mesa courthouse have benefitted from U.S. government support under the Merida Initiative.
CERESO El Hongo II was recently re-accredited by the American Correctional Association (ACA) during the organization’s summer Conference of Correction, demonstrating its commitment to follow recognized international best practices in prison management. CERESO El Hongo II was first accredited by the ACA in August 2013, and has remained in compliance with ACA’s accreditation standards since then. Over the past 12 months the facility has had an average inmate population of 61% of its operating capacity, and was ranked as the third best penitentiary facility in Mexico’s Human Rights Commission (CNDH) 2015 report. Structural upgrades to the facility since 2010 have included expansion of operating capacity and the installation of spiritual spaces for worship.
Following the visit, DAS Foote commented, “The Prison Director and his team ably demonstrate their continued dedication to run a penitentiary facility that guarantees the safety and security of guards and inmates, while at the same time offering reinsertion programs that deter antisocial behavior and provide inmates with real opportunities to lead a meaningful life upon reentering society. I consider them to be a model for Mexico’s state penitentiary system.”
DAS Foote also visited the La Mesa courthouse in Tijuana, where he discussed the consolidation of the new criminal justice system in Tijuana with Presiding Judge Lic. Fidel García Villanueva and his team of prosecutors. La Mesa is one of 123 courtrooms in Mexico that have received equipment and technical assistance from the US government as part of its support to the government of Mexico in the consolidation of the new accusatory system.
The Mérida Initiative is a bilateral security cooperation agreement between Mexico and the United States. Since its signing in 2008, the Merida Initiative has led to greater cooperation between the United States and Mexico. It has provided tangible support to Mexico’s law enforcement and judicial institutions, helped to counteract the illegal trade in narcotics, and strengthened border security. To date, the Mérida Initiative has delivered more than USD 1.4 billion in equipment, training, and capacity building assistance to the government of Mexico.
Through the Merida Initiative, the U.S. government supports government of Mexico efforts to reform the penitentiary system and to consolidate the new accusatory criminal justice system. Assisting federal and state penitentiary facilities to achieve ACA accreditation lies at the heart of U.S. support for correctional reform, and since 2012 the U.S. government has assisted 42 penitentiary facilities to achieve this international recognition. Support for the consolidation of the new criminal justice system includes training for law enforcement officers and the judiciary, development of oral litigation skills among law students, outfitting courtrooms to ensure they meet the requirements of the new criminal justice system, and support for alternative justice mechanisms.