Pope Francis will make an unusual stop on his highly-anticipated visit to Mexico next month: Prison No. 3, a former symbol of gang power in Ciudad Juarez.
Chihuahua state prison director Jorge Bissuet Galarza told AP that the prison used to be "the biggest drug den" in Juarez. "You couldn't enter a single prison... without asking permission from the inmates," he said.
In recent years, officers have regained control of inmates, and the prison is now calm enough for facilitate a visit from the pontiff. During his stop, Pope Francis will speak with prisoners, 250 relatives and 100 religious workers.
Experts say the Pope's visit is both emblematic of how far the region has come and how far they've yet to go in combating violence. In 2010 — during the height of the drug cartel wars — Juarez had a murder rate of 230 per 100,000 inhabitants. Since then, the murder rate has dropped significantly; in 2015, it was 21 people per 100,000.
"This is what we need: to talk about the Juarez now, not the Juarez of before," said Pedro Martinez, an engineer who is building a stage for one of the Pope's mass celebrations. "This is why the Pope's visit is so important."