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Massive jailbreaks in Mexico. Prison riots in Venezuela, and fires in Honduras. Latin America's prisons are overcrowded, out of control and ready to burst. In this in-depth series, GlobalPost goes inside some of the Americas' most violent prisons to investigate a correctional system that has gone horribly wrong.

Mexico

Mexican hot potato over who controls prisons

Some of Mexico's prisons are out of control and ill-equipped to handle the glut of inmates. While politicos fiddle, prisoners break out.

It remains unseen if the country's federal prisons will do a better job. Reforma newspaper reported 37 percent of the 941 prison disturbances over the first 10 months of last year happened in seven federal prisons. Jaime, meanwhile, says evidence showing the superiority of the federal system is lacking.

The federal government also wants guards to be better trained and vetted to root out corruption, but some observers say it's tough to eliminate.

The cartels often "know where the guards live," says Rev. Robert Coogan, a Catholic priest and prison chaplain in the industrial city of Saltillo. There, the warden was murdered last year and the head guard disappeared in an abduction.

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Coogan also questions the commitment to improve prisons. His lockup, located 200 miles southwest of the Texas border at Laredo and under control of Los Zetas, has been raided twice by the police since January. That involved tearing apart his prison chapel and removing inmates' microwaves, TVs and video game consuls.

Los Zetas, he alleged, "received word of the visit and scrambled to make sure the damage to them was minimal."

The priest also noted that Los Zetas' prison leaders had adopted a dog — which was never discovered during the two raids.

http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/regions/americas/mexico/120513/mexican-prisons-out-of-control