Treaty on the Execution OF Penal Sentences 24 U.S.T. 7399 (1977)

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TREATY ON THE EXECUTION OF PENAL SENTENCES 24 U.S.T. 7399 (1977)

The Mexican American Treaty on the Execution of Penal Sentences was signed on November 25, 1976. Legislation implementing the treaty became law on October 28, 1977. Since that time, thousands of prisoners have been exchanged under its provisions.

The treaty, a model for later agreements with countries such as Canada, responded to concerns about the treatment of Americans imprisoned in Mexican jails, concerns that became increasingly acute as the two countries in the 1970s began a crackdown on drug traffic from Mexico to the United States. Preexisting procedures for monitoring and improving the conditions of Americans incarcerated in Mexico, mainly action taken by United States consular offices, had proven unsatisfactory.

Under the treaty, any American imprisoned in Mexico can, with his consent and the consent of Mexico and the United States, be sent to serve his sentence in the American prison system. Mexican prisoners can similarly be transferred from the United States to Mexico. Once transferred, the prisoner's sentence can be reduced by any procedures such as parole or conditional release applicable in the receiving country. The treaty covers only acts criminal in both countries, and does not extend to political crimes or to infractions of immigration laws or "purely military" laws.

The attorney general administers the obligations of the United States under the treaty. The implementing legislation requires the attorney general to verify the prisoner's consent to transfer, and also provides a right to appointed counsel during the verification proceedings should the prisoner be unable to pay.

Lower federal courts have held that the treaty does not violate the Constitution despite the fact that under it the United States incarcerates United States citizens whose trials may not have complied with the bill of rights.

Gerald L. LÓpez
(1986)

(see also: Prisoners' Rights.)

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