Mexico: Prisons Opening Maquiladoras

Publisher Name: 
Associated Press

State officials in Tamaulipas say they want U.S. companies to
open workshops inside Mexican prisons to help train prisoners for factory
jobs.

Manuel del Riego de los Santos, prison director for Tamaulipas, met
recently with Reynosa's mayor and a Reynosa-based maquiladora association
to sign a formal agreement allowing maquilas to work inside Tamaulipas' 13
state prisons.

"We are initiating a new type of reform," de los Santos said during the
meeting. "And we hope to interest more maquilas with these types of
agreements.

Reynosa is McAllen's sister city across the Mexican border.

Jesus Vallejo Tamez, director of the maquiladora association Central
Empresarial del Noreste, which represents 78 Mexican- and U.S.-owned
companies, said five companies are interested in manufacturing inside
Reynosa's state-run El Centro de Readaptacion Social, known as CERESO.

Recently, prison laborers refurbished wooden palettes for resale to
maquilas and large grocery chains. Ruben Castillo Garza, who will be out of
jail in six months, said he will continue working with the Tarimera Tropeos
maquiladora when he is released.

"I'm from Monterrey, but I'm going to stay here in Reynosa," he said. "I
want to stay with the company as it grows and gets bigger, only I'll be
working outside of the prison, thank God," he said, smiling.

In a shaded workshop, three men built handmade doors and carved clocks. The
business, called Puertas Rusticas, opened three months ago in CERESO.

Prison director Ignacio Cervantes Jimenez, said that the prisoners wages
are fair.

"We don't want to exploit the workers," he said. "We want to be just."

Contreras said he prefers to work because he can send a portion of the
money home to Montemorelos to support his wife, who works as a teacher, and
two children.

According to Cervantes Jimenez, Tamaulipas Gov. Tomas Yarrington initiated
the idea of maquilas working inside the state prisons. He said that the
practice has always been allowed constitutionally, but it had never been
put into practice.

He said there is no set wage for the prison laborers, but each maquila will
negotiate salaries in their contracts.

"I believe this an effective way to reform prisoners," he said. "They get
to use their minds productively and develop new skills."

Maquila association director Jesus Vallejo Tamez said it was a positive
situation for everybody.

"This is the first time we are breaking the paradigm," he said. "The
prisoners are making a contribution to society and they can provide money
to their families."

AMP Section Name:Labor
  • 187 Privatization