Ill-prepared for Covid-19, Mexico City prisons continue to allow visitors

Originally published by America Magazine on 01/04/2020


In Mexico City, at 13 prisons, people are still visiting each day to see their family members and bring them groceries.People in prison are a vulnerable group to COVID-19, as the prisons are overcrowded and they do not have the facilities to isolate people in case of a situation of a contagion.There are no ventilators, no equipment for intubations. Basic hygiene behind these bars is a problem, and rumors and panic can spread quickly. Visitors and the groceries and other products they bring for the prisoners increase the risk of infection from the outside.On March 30, after the declaration of the national health emergency, minors, pregnant women and people older than 60 are no longer allowed to visit.NGO’s are scared that one case within the prison can result in an outbreak for many inmates; However, not all visitation has been banned because the prisoners exercise a degree of self-government in the prisons and it would almost certainly mean riots if there was an outright ban on visitation.Approximately half of the population lives below poverty level, and a significant portion of Mexicans work in the informal sector. For them, staying at home means being unable to provide for their families. It is really hard for them to follow federal social distancing recommendations, and therefore the risk of a COVID-19 outbreak in the prisons appears high.

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