Juvenile Justice in Mexico
Received: 18 July 2014 / Revised: 15 August 2014 / Accepted: 18 August 2014 / Published: 26 August 2014
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The first tribunal in Mexico was established in the central state of San Luis Potosi in 1926. The Law Regarding Social Prevention and Juvenile Delinquency for the Federal District and Mexican territories was promulgated in 1928. In 2005, Article 18 of the
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The first tribunal in Mexico was established in the central state of San Luis Potosi in 1926. The Law Regarding Social Prevention and Juvenile Delinquency for the Federal District and Mexican territories was promulgated in 1928. In 2005, Article 18 of the Mexican Constitution was modified to establish a comprehensive system (“Sistema Integral de justicia” in Spanish) of justice for juveniles between 12 and 18 years old who had committed a crime punishable under criminal law. Its objective was to guarantee juveniles all the due process rights established for adults, in addition to the special ones recognized for minors. The constitutional reform also provides a framework that includes special tribunals as well as alternative justice options for juveniles. With these reforms, institutionalization of minors was to be considered an extreme measure applicable only to felonies and to juveniles older than 14. In 2006, all states within the Mexican federation enacted the “Law of justice for adolescents”. This system, at both the federal and state levels, formalizes a new global paradigm with regard to the triangular relationship between children, the State and the Law. It recognizes that children are also bearers of the inherent human rights recognized for all individuals, instead of simply objects in need of protection. However, despite formally aligning Mexican juvenile justice law with the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), issues of actual substantive rights remained and new ones have appeared. For example, juveniles younger than 14 who have not committed a felony are released from institutions without any rehabilitation or treatment options, and alternative forms of justice were included without evaluating their possibilities of application or their conditions for success. In addition, the economic status of most juvenile detainees continues to be one of the most important determining factors in the administration of justice. Juveniles lack real access to an adequate defense because they cannot afford to pay lawyers. This disconnection between rights and reality undermines the new system, raising the question of whether recent modifications to bring laws in line with international norms are in fact advancing juvenile justice. By approaching the Mexican juvenile justice systems as a single, multilayered system combining international, federal and local laws and procedures, we can better describe some of the substantive inconsistencies that continue to prevail, even as new ones develop in terms of children’s rights.