A federal penal colony situated on an island 70 miles off the coast of Nayarit – often referred to as Mexico’s Alcatraz – is set to close following a decree issued by Mexican President Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador.
The isolated penitentiary on Maria Madre Island, the largest of the four Islas Marias, houses around 650 prisoners, many of them serving long sentences.
The president’s decree also grants clemency to 200 prisoners, who will be released immediately.
Once the prison – built in 1905 – is shut down, it will be converted into a cultural center, Lopez Obrador promised. “We need more schools and fewer prisons,” he declared.
Tourism to the islands is expected to surge once the prison is closed.
The penal colony continued to operate even though the archipelago was designated the Islas Marías Biosphere Reserve by UNESCO in 2010.