The Impact of Reform to the Criminal Justice System in Mexico

Graffiti in Tijuana


Judicial reform at the federal level in Mexico was approved by congress in 2008, and it is expected that this reform will be in place in all states by 2016. The new judicial system already introduced by several Mexican states should lead to a more transparent and efficient criminal justice system. The main changes brought by the reform are the introduction of oral proceedings to increase fairness and efficiency, and an increase in the role of the police in crime investigations to enhance effectiveness.


The purpose of this study is to analyze the effect of judicial reform on the criminal justice system in Mexico. We empirically evaluate the impact of judicial reform in Mexico on crime and individuals' experience with the criminal justice system using a crime victimization survey (Encuesta Nacional Sobre la Inseguridad) that provides information of officially reported and unreported crimes for the pre- and post-reform periods for several states (pre-reform: 2004 and 2005, and post-reform: 2008 and 2009) and is representative at the city level.

Preliminary Findings

  • This analysis shows that judicial reform diminishes the probability that a person is a victim of crime. Nonetheless, judicial reform is associated with lower perceptions of security at the city and county level.
  • Results show that judicial reform is associated with lower trust and a lower grade given to the local and preventive police. Interestingly, judicial reform is associated with an increase in the grade given to the agents of the Public Prosecution Office (Ministerio Publico).
  • When looking at crime data, crime reporting in Chihuahua increased with judicial reform, and this increase was significant when compared to the change in crime reporting in the control cities (Tijuana and Mexicali). On the other hand, crime reporting in Juarez decreased with the judicial reform.
  • When considering 11 major cities, judicial reform is associated with a significant increase in the probability that the Public Prosecution Office will start an investigation if the crime is reported.

Policy Impact

This study shows that judicial reform in Mexico has brought some positive effects to society by being associated with lower crime rates and by leading to improvements in the criminal justice system, such as an increase in reported crimes in the city of Chihuahua and an increase in the number of investigations undertaken by the Public Prosecution Office. These findings are encouraging to policymakers, and should provide support for the reforms to the criminal justice system that are taking place in other Mexican states.

Research Team

Luisa Blanco, Principal Investigator

Centro Andino de Fomento (CAF) and LACEA-ALCAPONE, partners