“The legal system has the peculiarity that from the moment people are detained, they are considered guilty and they will have to prove their innocence. It is easy to get into prison, but it is much more difficult to get out.”
These were the words of Mercedes Jaime de Fernández when the College of Legal Specialisms awarded her the title of Doctor Honoris Causa on 14th March 2021.
Mercedes, an AIC volunteer from Monterrey, Mexico, who is almost 80 years old, was honoured with this exceptional award for over 30 years of work with incarcerated people.
She started as an AIC volunteer in 1984 alongside her mother. She visited prisoners and their families, continuing the work begun in 1961 by other volunteers in Monterrey.
Since then, Mercedes has never ceased to support these marginalised people, who are victims of poverty, violence, injustice or a bad decision and who are penalised by the Mexican judicial system, which presumes guilt.
She has always shown compassion for those who have ended up in prison, often for minor offences and sometimes for many years before a judgement is made. “It is difficult to talk about justice when talking about people who have been deprived of their liberty,” she said.
She has been actively involved in fundraising, to finance bail or support the families of detainees. She has also fought tirelessly for the social reintegration of many people: “We are not here to judge them, but to fight for real social reintegration. It is important that people understand that when you make a mistake, you deserve a second chance,” she concludes.
Congratulations to Mercedes and her AIC group for this recognition of their commitment!