U.S. Embassy Visits to Correctional Facilities in Matamoros and Reynosa Paves Way for International Accreditation

Reynosa, Tamaulipas, January 22, 2016 – Officials from the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City and the U.S. Consulate General in Matamoros yesterday concluded assessments of State correctional facilities in Matamoros and Reynosa. They later shared their findings with Nora Angelica Balderrama Cano, Under-Secretary for the Tamaulipas State Penal System. These visits are an important step towards Tamaulipas State correctional facilities achieving international accreditation by the American Correctional Association (ACA), a measure that was advocated by Director of Mexican Correction Facilities Eduardo Guerrero Durán at the National Penitentiary Conference in December 2015 and supported by Governor Egidio Torre Cantu.

To date, officials from the U.S. Embassy have conducted assessments at six State correctional facilities in Tamaulipas, including the TUTELAR juvenile establishment. It is expected that in the next three months, one or more will commence the process of achieving ACA accreditation. In order to obtain ACA accreditation, facilities must comply with 40 mandatory core standards and at least 90% of a further 97 non-core standards in the areas of safety, security, protection of property and people, human rights, order and administration of correctional institutions. According to the officials, U.S. advisors will provide training and share knowledge and skills with Mexican prison officials to help them successfully achieve ACA accreditation.

Since 2009, under the Merida Initiative the U.S. government has provided approximately USD 25 million in equipment, training and technical assistance to support correctional reform in Mexico. Much of this support has focused on assisting federal and state penitentiaries to achieve ACA accreditation. To date, seven federal facilities and 16 State facilities have achieved ACA accreditation, including the Federal Correctional Facility (CEFERESO) in Matamoros. The U.S. government plans to assist Mexico in achieving accreditation for all of its federal correctional facilities by 2017, with a long term goal of achieving accreditation for all of Mexico’s 387 federal and state correctional facilities.

The Merida Initiative is a bilateral security cooperation agreement between Mexico and the United States. Through eight years of implementation, the Merida Initiative has led to greater cooperation between the U.S. and Mexico, and has provided tangible support to Mexico’s law enforcement and judicial institutions, helped to counteract the illegal trade in narcotics, and strengthen border security. To date, the Merida Initiative has delivered more than USD 1.4 billion in equipment, training, and capacity building assistance to the Government of Mexico.