National Geographic Americas Hardest Prisons Mexican Lockdown (2010)
Nuevo Laredo lies a few miles south of the US-Mexico border, across the Rio Grande from Texas. It's a hot spot in the drug war - a border town known for its chilling violence and rampant corruption. And it's the perfect home for a notoriously violent Mexican prison known as Cedes. In 2005, two American brothers jailed on homicide charges were stabbed to death in their cells. Only a month before that, a gang shootout on a basketball court left one inmate dead and several injured. The next day, two other inmates were stabbed to death and one was shot, caught in a barrage of 30 bullets. Guards later recovered six pistols and an AK-47 in inmate cells. Many of the inmates here are members of drug cartels and gangs like the Mexican Mafia. At Cedes, nobody ever talks 'politics' or about violence behind bars. To do so would be to risk reprisals. A substantial number of prisoners here have served time in both American and Mexican prisons and many prefer life at Cedes, largely because of the astonishing amount of freedom they are given. The novel visitation policy allows inmates to meet loved ones in an open picnic area from 9am to 5pm, six days a week. In some cases conjugal visits are allowed in private rooms. Officers believe such perks reduce tension inside the prison but, as the warden and officers reveal, along with these freedoms comes constant danger. Keeping Cedes under control, even on a good day, is no easy task.