‘Graduations from Hell': A Documentary on the Mexican Prison System Crisis

After we posed the question Why Aren't We Talking About Mexican Prisons? in a previous post, it seemed appropriate to revisit the issue after a documentary series aired on the new open broadcast channel in Mexico, Imagen Televisión, showed once again how little media attention, if any, is paid to the prison system.

Imagen Televisión began broadcasting at the end of 2016 as an alternative to the so-called television duopoly held by predominant companies Televisa and TV Azteca.

The documentary series, hosted by renowned journalist Ciro Gómez Leyva, is titled “Graduaciones del Infierno” or “Graduations from Hell,” a reference to how inmates receive a lot of criminal training in prison. It also revealed the way in which staff at Mexico City's prisons are involved in corrupt activities, like selling or renting mobile phones to inmates, who then use the devices to commit extortion.

Phone extortion is one of the most lucrative felonies committed in Mexico, and it has been explained by the government as follows:

Ya sea a través de la llamada de una supuesta persona familiar que está en apuros o secuestrada, del mensaje de texto que te avisa de un “sorteo” que ganaste, de las amenazas de un supuesto grupo delictivo o del aviso de la suspensión temporal de tu línea telefónica por fallas en el servicio, la extorsión es un delito grave que debes denunciar.

Algunos delincuentes, emplean este método para obtener un beneficio económico; eligen números telefónicos al azar para hacer llamadas extorsivas y consiguen enganchar a sus víctimas a través de la violencia psicológica, principalmente.

Extortion is a major felony, whether it is a fake call saying that a relative has been kidnapped or harmed in any way, a message saying you won a contest, threats by a crime group, or a temporary service suspension notice from your phone company due to service problems”.

Some criminals have chosen to use this method in order to obtain financial benefits; they select phone numbers at random so as to make extortion calls and manage to control their victims mainly through psychological violence.

According to the newspaper Excélsior (a member of the Imagen group, same as the television channel), at least one of the public workers shown in the report has been apprehended and prosecuted.

Other traditional media, including major broadcasting channels in the country, for whatever reason didn't echo the reporting done by Imagen Televisión. Notwithstanding, Mexicans on social media like Twitter have become amplifying the material and discussing it under the hashtag #GraduacionesDelInfierno:

#GraduacionesDelinfierno (Graduations from Hell) a small fraction of all the corruption there is in our rotten prison system. #YLoQueFalta (And what still lies ahead)

User Madame Déficit asked the capital city's head of government, Miguel Ángel Mancera, to explain why his administration has remained idle on this subject:

Lesson from the documentary #GraduacionesDelinfierno (Graduations of Hell) If Mexican politicians don't watch it on TV, then they won't start working, right @ManceraMiguelMX?

Thanks to this research conducted by Imagen Televisión, the ruin of the Mexican prison system is in the public eye. Now the question remains for how long, and how these criminals are to be punished if many of them are already in prison.

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