“Inmates running the Asylum” – Lessons from El Pueblito

The Economist carries the following article in its Aug 17th 2013 print edition:
“ONE NATION, BEHIND BARS”
It covers the growing problem of America’s overcrowded prisons. I think Eric Holder’s proposals for locking up fewer Americans are welcome, but do not go far enough.

Savio Rebelo | Disruptive Frontiers And The Death of Traditional Models

Some time back, I watched the Mel Gibson movie “Get the Gringo.” wherein he is sent to the fictional El Pueblito prison.  The prison is run by the prisoners themselves.  Though amusing, I could not comprehend that such a thing actually existed anywhere in the world.

Doing a little research, I found that El Pueblito was a real-life prison built in 1956 in Tijuana, Mexico, as part of an experiment where researchers, wanting to help inmates readjust to life in the outside world after serving their sentence, allowed their families to stay with them.   Over the years, this flexible arrangement was abused and some of these inmates began ruling over the prison.

The El Pueblito, model-prison-turned-law-enforcement nightmare was effectively destroyed about eleven years back on August 20, 2002.  On that day, approximately 2,000 law-enforcement officers stormed the facility to transfer many prisoners to other institutions, evict entire…

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