Las opiniones y datos contenidos en este documento son de la exclusiva responsabilidad de sus autores y no representan el punto de vista del CIDE como institución.
Based on a participatory study design, this article describes how a group of family members of people deprived of liberty (PDL) experienced the COVID-19 control measures implemented in Mexico’s prisons. We conducted 28 in-depth interviews and analyzed them using ATLAS.ti. We found that the measures implemented in Mexican prisons to avoid the spread of COVID-19 focused mainly on suspension of visitation and PDL confinement. The isolation imposed on PDL impacted their living conditions, making them more vulnerable to contracting COVID-19 due to lack of access to essential services, food, and hygiene supplies. Visit restrictions and PDL isolation also impacted PDL relatives’ health and socioeconomic conditions. Our findings indicate that the consequences of COVID-19 control actions in Mexican prisons differ according to the gender and jurisdiction of PDL. Women in federal prisons were more isolated, while those in local ones were more deprived of basic supplies. Imprisoned women’s isolation has especially severe effects on the mental and physical health of their elderly parents and children. The results show how the measures adopted to control COVID-19 outbreaks in Mexican prisons have exacerbated the preexisting systemic violence experienced by PDL and their families and how they have failed to prevent the spread of COVID-19 in these settings. These findings provide support for the health-informed penal reform of Mexican prisons.