Prior to examining the Mexican criminal justice system, we must acknowledge that there is no doubt that the American criminal justice system needs work. Each year more than 650,000 prisoners are released from federal prisons alone in the United States, and within three years of their release, two-thirds are rearrested on criminal charges.
Our neighbors to the south are most often not cognizant of our system of justice, and often offend without understanding that the United States Federal Government hands out jail sentences like candy and looks for opportunities to enhance sentences based upon prior criminal conduct. Traditional concepts of redemption are out of the equation when most sentences are instituted.
Most Americans lack an understanding of the existing Mexican criminal justice system too. Evidence is gathered by police --the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures does not exist --and all evidence is preserved for the prosecutor. From there, the prosecutor presents the evidence to the judge, who issues a judgment and sentence. The archaic Napoleonic system of Mexican criminal justice is changing, however. In certain parts of Mexico they are experimenting with U.S.-styled trials, and there seems to be a trend towards adapting the Mexican justice system to one comparable to that of the United States.
Mexican clients often do not know how different our system of justice is, and thus, additional care and guidance is required. Even the most basic principles of our system needs to be explained so that they understand that the American system of justice demands due process. Americans demand substantive and procedural fairness, whereas the existing Mexican criminal justice system focuses on substantive norms of fairness --which often leads to corruption. It is easy to look at the Mexican criminal justice system with great contempt as there are several processes that invite corruption. However, no system is perfect, and the focus needs to be on an enhanced understanding of present and future needs when each and every case is decided. This seems to be the goal of on-coming changes in the Mexican criminal justice system.