Hundreds of Children Never Sent to Prison

Interviewing a teen at the pretrial detention center in 2013.

This year we are starting a new project in Mexico City. We haven’t worked in the Mexico City juvenile detention centers for three years. Today was the first time that I have returned to the pretrial detention center in Mexico City. In 2013, on any given day there were 250 teens in the pretrial detention center, designed for 160. Today, there were 44! Of the six dormitories in the facility, only four have teens. There are over a hundred empty beds. We passed out school supplies to every single one teen. It was overwhelming to see so few children.

A dormitory at the pretrial detention center, filled past capacity in 2013.

In 2013, after a year of working with the Superior Court of Justice in Mexico City, we presented a study recommending that they implement a “Pretrial Services Unit”. It would be only the second such unit for juveniles in all of Mexico. Last year, Mexico City’s juvenile pretrial detention services unit was fully operational. In addition, a new law that was passed means that juveniles no longer have to wait up to a month for a bail hearing but are guaranteed a bail hearing within two days of arrest. As a result, hundreds of children will never spend a single day in detention and hundreds more will be released at their bail hearing.

A row of beds neatly made in 2013.

In 2013, we shone the light on the problems of excessive pretrial detention in Mexico City. This incredible transformation is due to leadership in the Superior Court, an acknowledgement that pretrial detention was excessive, and numerous nonprofit organizations contributing, training and advocating. Now, hundreds of children will avoid detention and as a result will have a chance at a better future. It felt good to come back and see the detention center that was nearly empty in part because of our work.

I will never see the faces of the children who did not get sent to pretrial detention. They will never know that our efforts helped to keep them out of detention. But today, it felt very good to not see them in detention.

“Know your rights” empowering juveniles and families…

Our first “Know Your Rights” workshop with juveniles and family members at the CERSAI juvenile detention center in Ciudad Juárez… Saturday, March 18th we were very excited to begin our “Know Your Rights” workshop, in collaboration with the State Human Rights Commission of Chihuahua and the Chihuahua Public Defender’s Office. After many weeks of planning, […]

This weekend, a mother saw her son for the first time in three years

This past weekend, we started our monthly “Family Reunification” project for children in prison in Chihuahua state. Olivia Meneses, our project director, worked with the prison´s list of four teenagers who have not had visitors for months. They all live at least three hours outside the city and come from extreme poverty. We arranged bus […]

The Genesis of “Every Child Has a Story” Photography Documentary Part 3

Part 3: Normalizing the Trauma and Dehumanizing Kids Our Family Reunification Project and the “Every Child Has a Story” documentary heads out this weekend to Chihuahua state. The goal is to help families who cannot afford to visit their children in prison get transportation to the facilities. We are documenting the stories and taking photographs […]

The Genesis of “Every Child Has a Story” Photography Documentary Part 2

Part 2: Olivia calls the family (Read Part 1) Last week, Olivia, our project coordinator, received the list of teenagers in the detention centers in Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua who do not receive visitors because their families are too poor. Sixteen children’s names, some with home addresses, some with phone numbers for their parents, some […]

The Genesis of “Every Child Has a Story” Photography Documentary Part 1

Part 1: Leaps of Faith Two years ago this month we completed our “Dia de Visita” photography documentary project. My wife Amanda took the photographs and I interviewed children and their families on visiting day at the detention center. It was quite a challenge to get permission and finally complete interviews with children and parents […]