Oaxaca Moves Toward Use of Pretrial Release
OAXACA, Mexico—Judges, prosecutors, and defense attorneys gathered here last week to discuss the implementation of new reforms that allow the use of pretrial release for large numbers of prisoners.
Recent changes in several Mexican states' criminal justice systems are leading the country's reform in reducing the use of pretrial detention, in which defendants are held in jail rather than released under bail or some other form of cautionary measure, that helps to ensure their appearance at the proceedings against them, while allowing them to retain employment, remain with their families and avoid the negative consequences of a jail environment.
Last week's training is part of Oaxaca's ongoing preparations to begin implementing its criminal justice reforms. In particular, this two-day session was organized by Proderecho, a nongovernmental initiative promoting state-level criminal justice reform throughout Mexico, and led by the Open Society Justice Initiative and its Mexican partner organization, Renace, in collaboration with Oaxaca's State Supreme Court.
The Justice Initiative and Renace are assisting the government of Oaxaca to tackle the overuse of pretrial detention and to explore strategies to better utilize the array of alternatives to pretrial detention. Oaxaca's old legislation contemplates bail as the only alternative to pretrial detention, thereby denying release to a high proportion of defendants who cannot afford bail. Under the new code of criminal procedure, a judicial officer can evaluate every defendant's right to provisional release. Participants at the training learned about the cost of pretrial detention, international and national standards regarding its use, techniques available to make release decisions, and alternatives to pretrial detention.
Oaxaca's reformed criminal procedure code, which allows for the possibility of pretrial release for all accused, is expected to reduce the use of pretrial detention in the state.
The Oaxaca training is part of a larger Justice Initiative and Renace project on pretrial detention in Mexico, which seeks to promote the presumption of innocence and reduce the criminal justice system's overreliance on pretrial detention.