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Jailed in Mexico: Thousands of Indigenous Behind Bars Due to Language Barriers

Rick Kearns - Indian Country Today
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March 8, 2015

Otomi Indian woman Jacinta Francisco Marcial spent more than three years in prison before being released on September 16, 2009. In May of last year, Francisco Marcial won a high court decision for illegal imprisonment against the Mexican government. (AP/Marco Ugarte)

There are more than 8,000 indigenous people in prison in Mexico who do not know the charges against them due to a lack of bilingual personnel in the criminal justice system according to human rights activists who addressed this issue in a seminar in late February.

The Director of the National Commission for the Development of Indigenous Peoples (NCDIP), Nuvia Mayorga, hosted a seminar in Mexico City entitled "The Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the Inter-American System" aimed at training bilingual attorneys to work on defending and freeing imprisoned indigenous people, especially indigenous women.

In 2014 the NCDIP sent researchers across the country to interview indigenous prisoners and discovered that over 8,000 of them did not speak Spanish, did not receive help from a translator or bilingual attorney and that the majority of them did not know why they were in jail.

Mayorga pointed out that the indigenous prisoners were from the states of Oaxaca, Chiapas, Veracruz, Chihuahua, Guerrero and the Federal District (Mexico City), and her colleague Lia Limon, Undersecretary of the NCDIP, underscored the severity of the situations confronting the indigenous men and women.

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