MEXICO: Off to Oblivion

Sharks are the guards and ocean waves the walls at Mexico's Islas Tres Marias prison camp, a trio of tiny, sun-baked islands about 70 miles off Mexico's west coast. The 1,072 inmates sweat out their lives in dazzling white salt pits, tend henequen fields and weave rope. They live in straw-roofed huts; there are no iron bars, but escape is next to impossible. In cells at Mexico City's Black Palace Prison, coldhearted murderers weep like little children at the prospect of banishment to the Three Marys.

By comparison, the famed Black Palace is almost a felon's delight. Colonel Francisco Linares,...

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