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date: 01 October 2022

The Criminal Justice System in Mexicolocked

The Criminal Justice System in Mexicolocked

  • Hannah BaronHannah BaronBrown University
  •  and Matthew C. IngramMatthew C. IngramDepartment of Political Science, University at Albany, State University of New York


The criminal justice system in Mexico underwent a major constitutional reform to criminal procedure in 2008. The reform, alongside a transition to electoral democracy, followed a long period of authoritarianism in which criminal procedure served basic repressive functions in service to the regime. The reform has had a formal, de jure impact on the justice system, as well as more practical, de facto effects on the implementation of justice. It has also touched on every aspect of the criminal justice system, from police to prisons, and many elements of the reform promised to strengthen criminal justice with the aim of aligning institutional design and practices with principles of democratic governance and the rule of law. However, the reform’s implementation has been uneven and incomplete. Several factors helped implementation, and others continue to hinder it. Some legal practitioners, scholars, and activists pushed for the reform, although, unsurprisingly, it has been challenging to advocate for due process and the rights of the accused among both elites and the public amidst criminal wars and persistently high levels of violence and insecurity. The forward and backward movement of criminal procedure reform is an important part of the liberalizing and “illiberalizing” dynamics of democracy in Mexico. These tensions within the criminal justice system in Mexico resonate with larger literatures in politics, law, and socio-legal studies on due process, procedural justice, judicial empowerment, the causes and consequences of institutional change, and, most broadly, democratization, the quality of democracy, and the rule of law.


  • Politics, Law, Judiciary

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