The Washington Post ran a story last Thursday on the problems facing the Mexican government as it tries to deal with swelling prison numbers resulting from the ongoing drugs war.

Hundreds of dangerous inmates have escaped from state penitentiaries along the U.S. border in recent months, some through spectacular action-movie breakouts, others by simply walking out the door

And for those who don’t break out or walk out, the conditions in which they are held:

[T]ens of thousands of federal prisoners – including powerful drug bosses and vicious killers – are being held in overcrowded, underfunded, poorly guarded state institutions, some of which are virtually under the control of criminal gangs

Describing how Los Zetas control one of the prisons where a recent breakout occurred, a prison official said:

“The one in charge was called Charlie,” he said. “He lived in an air-conditioned cell with carpets and two plasma TVs. He brought in anything he wanted: drugs, liquor, women. He escaped with the rest of them, but he left some of his people behind. There’s too much money to be made.”

Every inmate in the facility is forced to pay an extortion fee, the prison official explained, or go to work for the gang.

The Mexican government is responding to the crisis with plans to build more federal prisons- spending $800mn on prison expansions this year. The US government is supporting their efforts- about $14mn of its $1.6bn aid is allocated for prisons- to provide training and equipment.

This entire situation is howl-into-my-hands heartbreaking. The Obama administration shows no sign of changing its policy, and the war shows no signs of ending. If anything, the situation seems hydra-esque . One analyst now describes it as three wars, soon to be four: The war between the government and the drug traffickers; the war between the drug traffickers, the war of ‘sheer chaos’ in Ciudad Juárez where 500 neighborhood gangs are in internicine warfare, and the coming war between the drug traffickers and the US government on the Mexican border.

via and Mexico’s Drug War