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Judicial Reform in Mexico: Toward a New Criminal Justice System

NCJ Number
Matt Ingram; David A. Shirk
Date Published
May 2010
50 pages
This report explains the reforms in Mexico's criminal justice system under constitutional and legislative changes introduced in 2008 and assesses progress in their implementation, which is expected to occur nationwide by 2016.
The reforms have four major elements: changes to criminal procedure through the introduction of new oral, adversarial procedures, as well as alternative sentencing and dispute resolution; a greater emphasis on the due-process rights of the accused (the presumption of innocence and an adequate legal defense); modifications to police agencies and their role in criminal investigations; and tougher measures for combating organized crime. Thus far, these reforms have been instituted in only 13 of Mexico's 32 States, and it is evident that there are numerous supplementary measures needed to improve judicial-sector functioning. The success of the reform effort requires that policymakers develop realistic estimates of the resources needed. Currently, there is no estimate of the anticipated financial costs of the reforms, which is needed in order to plan for budgetary allocations. There is widespread consensus that massive investments are required for education, training, and supporting infrastructure. Such investments have not yet occurred. In order to monitor progress, administrators must develop indicators that measure successful implementation and performance. This will require greater transparency and access to information, along with the provision of resources for data-gathering, analysis, and dissemination. Along with the recent reforms, professionalism and accountability must be promoted, since the core problems of the Mexican justice system stem from the corruption and weakness of judicial institutions. 1 table, 3 figures, appended index of State reform initiatives, and 126 references