How is “El Altiplano”, the impenetrable prison where Ovidio Guzmán is

(CNN Spanish) — The prison to which the alleged drug trafficker Ovidio Guzmán López was sent is considered the most secure in Mexico, although this category was called into question when in July 2015 his father, now convicted Joaquín “El Chapo” Guzmán, escaped from it to through a tunnel.

After his capture in Sinaloa at dawn on Thursday, January 5, Guzmán López was sent that same day to the Federal Center for Social Readaptation (Cefereso) number 1, known as “El Altiplano”, located in the municipality of Almoloya de Juárez, in the state of Mexico, reported the Mexican government.

Security specialist Fernando Espinoza de los Monteros says that “El Altiplano” has high and thick walls, in addition to having video surveillance cameras in almost all areas and a system that blocks the signal for cell phone use.

It warns that the inmates ––among whom there are highly dangerous convicted criminals but also detainees without a final sentence, such as Guzmán López himself–– are isolated most of the day and that their communication with other inmates, guards, lawyers and family members is minimal.

An official at the service of the penitentiary system in Mexico, who requested anonymity, said that these rehabilitation centers were built inspired by what is known as the Saxon model, whose premise is the segregation of inmates rather than their reinsertion.

According to this expert, prisons like “El Altiplano” have concrete and steel blocks to make them “in theory impenetrable.”

“El Chapo was able to escape due to corruption, because without the plan he would never have made a tunnel; it’s like a honeycomb, you have to know where the soft ground is and where it’s not, because if you don’t, it’s impenetrable,” he said.

altiplano jail ovid

View of the Altiplano prison in Almoloya de Juárez, Mexico, on July 12, 2015. (Credit: YURI CORTEZ/AFP via Getty Images)

National and international media reported that El Chapo and Édgar Valdez Villarreal alias “La Barbie” led a hunger strike inside the prison for the alleged ill-treatment of which they said they were victims.

Javier Oliva Posada, professor and researcher at the Faculty of Political and Social Sciences of the Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM), adds that some of the most dangerous criminals in the country have passed through this center, such as drug traffickers Servando Gómez Martínez “La Tuta ”, Rafael Caro Quintero, in addition to La Barbie and El Chapo or well-known characters such as Mario Aburto Martínez, accused of murdering the Mexican politician Luis Donaldo Colosio.

According to the professor, the inmates have very little time to breathe outdoors in small patios, sunbathe or exercise, which eventually ends up affecting their mental and emotional health.

The prison where Guzmán López has been sleeping since Thursday has a population of 488 inmates, although its capacity is for 764 and it obtained a rating of 7.23 on a scale from zero to 10, where 10 is the best evaluated, according to the National Diagnosis of Penitentiary Supervision of the 2021 carried out by the National Human Rights Commission.

The CNDH evaluates five aspects: the guarantees that they grant to the physical and moral integrity of the inmates; the guarantees to a dignified stay; governance conditions; social reinsertion of the inmate and groups of people deprived of liberty with specific requirements.

The report states that the authorities in “El Altiplano” must pay attention to areas such as insufficient security and custody personnel; the separation between defendants and sentenced and in sports and educational activities, as well as in work and training activities.

It also warns of the deficiency in care for the elderly and in programs for the prevention of addictions and detoxification.

On the other hand, it recognizes appropriate attention to issues such as the guarantees to their integrity that inmates enjoy: dignified spaces, adequate governance and social reintegration of inmates.

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