Seventeen people are dead following a Juárez jailhouse "riot", which seems to have been more a pitched battle between the Mexicles and the Aztecas, two local gangs whose members populate the detention centers. The jail was built for 850 people, but houses some 2,700, which seems par for the course in northern Mexico. The prison issue remains a scandal in Mexico. The system is 25 percent over capacity around the nation. Escapes of dozens of inmates are common. Mass deaths have occurred in Gómez Palacio twice, Durango, Tijuana, and now Juárez on two occasions, in addition to many other deadly riots. Plans to build 12 new prisons by 2011 have gone nowhere.
Making all of this worse is the fact that this is not a new problem, and a huge surge in prisoners was an utterly obvious consequence of Calderón more aggressive posture, and the federal government has done very, very little on the issue in its almost five years in power. Furthermore, if Mexico ever improves its capacity to convict suspects, which is something we should all be hoping for, this problem will only get worse.