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At 6 p.m. in the days of visit and at 4.30 p.m. in the âdias de basuraâ, that are the days when the garbage is picked up, the gates of the Penitentiary are closed and the access is prohibited both personnel and to people visiting. After the list, the call is done by prison guards on visiting days and during waste disposal, the courtyards are empty and the inmates close to their cells. Dinner is not distributed and, who can, he should organize themselves to provide the last meal of the day.
In the courtyards of the sections is easy to attend a variety of activities and in each of them the prisoners and their relatives, of all ages, are like the bees in a hive and really seems to be in a small town.Works of construction and maintenance, business, craft workshops and sports tournaments are just some of the activities that take place within the prison.
Inside the prison inmates can manage businesses or work in small activities already underway. The trade, walking or permanent, is the primary source of livelihood for many detainees and their families. Inside the prison walls it is sold everything like groceries, used clothing as well as newspapers, DVDs and televisions.
Five days a week it is possible to receive visits from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Saturdays and Sundays it is allowed to enter without distinction of sex and, normally, they are the days when families get together. Mondays and Thursdays are the days of the women, while on Wednesday the access is restricted to men only.The police are instructed to monitor the inputs and searched at the entrance but not at the exit. Inside the penitentiary, built to accommodate 500 people, will live beyond 2000 adding detainees and family.
View of La Paz from the nearby city of El Alto, located at 4.080m s.l.m., a great satellite city of the capital that is the home of the poorest people that living and working there. La Paz - Chuqiyapu in the languages of pre-Columbian natives of ethnicity Quechua and Aymara - it is the seat of the Bolivian Government and the legislative and executive powers.With almost one million inhabitants it is considered the highest metropolis in the world and holds, exactly in the heart of inner city, the San Pedro Prison.
There are many young people detained in San Pedro and, of these, many are also fathers.To maintain relationships with their families is always a further difficulty to the deprivation of liberty and many couples do not resist at the procedural expectations without any certainty and at the sentences to be served. For new prisoners it is rather difficult to find paid employment and the inability to have an entry complicates the already delicate marital relationships that are created during a detention.
The rations is prepared in the kitchen of the Palmar section, it is divided section by section and it is distributed according to the list of those eligible, which are part of them.The diet consists, for the most part, in a plentiful ration of white rice accompanied by a piece of chicken and some vegetables. Rice, at least a couple of times a week, seems to be added with tranquilizer to calm tempers. In addition to the testimonies of some prisoners, many complain of a strong tendency to slumber only after to have eaten rice.
There are hundreds of prisoners awaiting Judgement and previously imprisoned for years and, when nobody outside the prison fails, paying, to facilitate the bureaucracy; the 3 years of maximum custody dilated even 8 years. About over 2.000 internal prisoners, only the 2% was managed to qualify at the last government pardon and the overcrowded and poverty conditions of the more populated prison in the poorest countries of Latin America, they are each day more dramatic.
One of the most strange works inside the prison are âmen-taxisâ. They are some prisoners who, in exchange for a couple of bolivianos (about 30 euro cents) accompany the relatives in visit to the cells of their respective or they run around the prison shouting the name of the convict to find. Among them, the most organized, wearing a red jacket with the word âTAXIâ on the back. Others are crowded near the entrance gate and they trying to sell small artifacts assembled with pieces of recovery.
Some prisoners âwithout the sectionâ live in complete destitution and, prey to serious addictions, they spend hours trying to earn some money by working, begging or sleeping off the aftereffects of the last intake.They are Devoid of a cell and a bed, occupy the corridors that connect the sections, the corners of the common courtyard and the stairs; sometimes without ever being able to be separated from everything they possess.
The so-called âCallejoÌnâ, from the Spanish âalleyâ, is the main gateway to the courtyard entrance and Palmar sections, Guanay, Cancha, San Martin, the Prefectura and the latter, through a security door, the Posta section. During the day hosts fruit and vegetable stalls and fruit juices, food shops and small restaurants. At night it becomes a true open-air dormitory, where âwithout theâ allestiscono beds of fortune to spend the night.
Some children are born inside the San Pedro Penitentiary and they can get out of the prison only to participate in trips organized by the educators who work within the prison, or to go to school and so they spent their entire lives inside prison. The consumption of alcohol and drugs among their parents is very common and it happens not infrequently that the children are not supervised and educated properly.
Despite the prison is self-managed, security and administrative management of the prison entrusted to the police. In the pyramid of the prison system, at the back of the interior minister and the director of the penitentiary department there is the colonel-in-chief, the only one who actually lives in the building and, in fact, represents the Bolivian government within the walls of San Pedro. Often they are interviewed by journalist and videomaker and, with same frequency, they are replaced by their superiors.
In Bolivia, one of the largest producers of cocaine in the world, the convicts from other countries are overwhelmingly linked to drug trafficking. Many Colombians, for example, the most experts in the processing and refining of cocaine, recruit their personnel in Bolivia, poorer than neighboring Colombia. Some, for the same reasons, relocate their production and transfer directly in Bolivia, mostly in the area of theYungas and the Chapare,in the department of Cochabamba.
The alley that connects most of the sections with the entrance courtyard, it is called by the prisoners generally âcaioconâ, that is literally the âalley.â During the day it is a place of trade and trafficking and during the night, closed the doors at its ends, it becomes the bed of convicts âwithout divisionâ, those who can not pay by hardship or by choice and they live outside of the sections and they are not entitled to a bed. In the âdias de basuraâ the all garbage it is passed through this step to reach the main gate.
Section Pinos, which owes its name to a large tree in the middle of his small yard, holds two restaurants, two bars, a soccer field, a billiard room and a study room, now it used as a copy shop. The lack of accommodation available in the prison, because of overcrowding, led prisoners to set up makeshift shelters practically anywhere: attics, stairs and gaps have thus become housing for one or more people, sometimes entire families.
In each section are placed some pay phones equipped with metered and managed by one or more inmates, required to pay the good section of the revenues. The phone, controlled by the police prison, should be the only system of communication with the outside. In truth, most of the prisoners own a mobile phone with which it can continue to manage relationships with the outside and, if they did, their illicit activities, unaware of the police.
Each section is equipped with collective washbasins for the washing of dishes and the laundry. Some prisoners spend the morning and early afternoon with their hands in freezing water, washing for a few pesos. On the wall above the washbasins are remembered some behavioral standards to which prisoners must comply, failing which the complaint to the competent bodies and the expulsion of the section.
Kitchen is located in Palmar section and it used as a punishment for prisoners who commit petty crimes within the prison.They are forced to live and work in the same place and it is run by a prisoner of long standing, known by everybody for his brutal methods.Inmates sleep among the pots and food that they themselves will have to cook, above or under the tables where they will prepare the rations. The hygienic conditions are nonexistent, sometimes in the rice there are droppings of rats and, during the day, the mattresses and belongings of the prisoners are stacked with food.
A birthday party is an opportunity to share a few hours of fun and to feel almost free. The news spreads quickly among the prisoners and the the friends of the celebrated arrive with their dish to have a piece of cake.To live the moments rich of humanity and to feel very far from the prison, it is more than thousand therapies. For someone else, however, it is only an opportunity to be able to eat a slice of cake.
Frotasio Chipana Quispe, Aymara shaman and spiritual guide, was imprisoned from 6 months in the penitentiary of S.Pedro. He is accused of mistreatment by his ex-wife but he professes him innocence and he declares himself the victim of a conspiracy. Among his clients many illustrious members of Bolivian society and according to him, among others, also the President Evo Morales. Inside the prison he continues to do his work: he reads the future, makes shamanic rituals and buildings amultes for the inmates and their relatives.
Possession of unauthorized books is prohibited and even more to print and to share them.The only ones who have partially right are the inmates with a permit fo study. A prisoner, student and former typographer, has set up a clandestine printing press and, for a fee, he downloads ebooks from the internet, then binds and sells them for a few pesos. He is currently detained pending trial, accused by a convicted of having committed a murder.
The courtyard is the heart of the sections and the larger one is precisely that of San Martin. In the center the statue of the saint that gives its name to the section and behind the well, a reservoir used as a source of water for washing of mattresses and blankets, for the cleaning of the section, as improvised pool for children around the prison and as a punishment for prisoners who commit minor crimes and failures.
Visits inside the prison are allowed for most days of the week and like everything inside the prison are by payment.Visitors are allowed to spend the entire day inside and through an additional payment, even to stay overnight.Who does not receive visits can always reach his loved ones through the inevitable phone, only prohibited on paper and for which refills are sold in many commercial activities managed by the prisoners.
The roofs of the prison, which are accessed by some cells of the last floor moving a sheet resting on the beams, are used for a variety of activities:drying foods,sunbathing,smoking outdoors and drying clothes . Of this late activity are occupied the mostly of poorest prisoners who, after washing clothes, bedding and mattresses for other companions; they venture on to the rickety sheet metal roofing at about 10 meters above the ground, seriously endangering their lives, to earn only a few pesos.
The monoblock of Palmar, although it is a collective dormitory, it is equipped with a TV and three electric hot-plates. Television, inside the prison, is a faithful mate of life for the majority of the prisoners and it continues to remain on even when no one looks.
The restaurants inside the prison represent one of the most common business activities. With just a few pesos, from 5 to 10 bolivianos â about 70 cents or a two Euros - you can eat a full menu, which consists of a soup, a first and a second.The restaurant of Jose, the former prelate sentenced to 15 years in prison, is one of the most crowded. Its clients are, for the most part, the relatives and friends of prisoners in visit. Its main attraction is the âSajta de polloâ cooking on visiting days and public holidays.
Some prisoners in serious financial difficulties are forced to live in the most dilapidated housing in cramped and unhealthy areas. In a cell on the top floor, which is accessed by a small manhole on the top of a steep staircase, the ceiling is made with plasterboard and it is full of holes from which filters rainwater. All occupants of the room, to be able to pay the rent, perform the most menial tasks inside the prison: garbage collection, cleaning of bathrooms and common areas.
For a few pesos itâs possible to play pool for an hour or more and the San Martinâs poolroom has 3 tables. Neon lights light up posters depicting half-naked women, landscapes and period photographs. An old television blaring, suspended a few meters above the ground, transmits music video of a little-known local broadcaster.
Sometimes who covering tasks inside the jail, he has the right to accommodation.
To the keeper of the infirmary and the guardian of the Educational Center, for example, is allowed to switch to the night in the rooms that they have to clean and to check.Also the poolroom, providing with a small gatehouse designed to control and to put the game equipment, it is become the cell of its guardian who gives it often in exchange for a few small please.
Depending on the economic possibilities you can rent a bed in a shared dormitory, in a cell for six, in a cell for two duplex or reserve or buy a single cell.Those who can not or simply do not want to pay, it is not entitled to a bed, to use the services offered by Chambers and must be content to sleep on the floor of the corridors and common areas.
Within a niche carved into the wall and protected by a wooden structure, a television with a powerful sound system it offers a little âentertainment to the prisoners, in the yard of Palmar section. Often some viewers are not part of the section but, despite being prohibited, there is a tacit tolerance and shared.
Most of the prisoners of San Pedro was arrested for crimes linked to drug trafficking or they are in preventive custody, that is, to await trial. Many commit common crimes or some are unjustly arrested and in prison some of them become drug addicts.The most consumed drugs is the coca paste, the standing of coca refining process before the cocaine. Who can not afford the purchase of a daily dose, he carries out duties for other prisoners for about ten pesos a day, about 1 euro, that it need for the purchase of two doses.
The âDisciplinaâ - a kind of internal police composed entirely by criminals - it is controlled by âCouncil of Delegatesâ, chaired by a prisoner named Victor Hugo Mendoza, the most powerful man in the jail. Among the tasks: to investigate in case of complaint, to stop the brawls and to punish the alleged perpetrators of crimes in San Pedro. They wear ever ybody, except the chief with a white t-shirt, a black tracksuit with a logo: a lion and a unicorn which together hold up a large V and that base themselves on a banner with the inscription âVictorinosâ
Marco, a young twenty year old with a long interval between the recovery community and juvenile prison dreams, as a free man, a future in hip hop music. habitual consumer of alcohol and drugs of all kinds, he wrote his lyrics mostly in prison, where he finds every day a lot of ideas, including the conditions of the detainees and their adventures before his arrest. It is more inspired by Latin American artists and Cypress Hill.
Among the many commercial and craft activities there is a dressmakerâs workroom manage by 3 three prisoners, which shall make garments both for the prisoners themselves than for external institutions and associations. Genaro, the head of the workshop, he learned to be a tailor in prison and dreams, as a free man, to open his own workshop. In his past, for years, he had always dealt with the cocaine refining process in the Bolivian jungle and he had never done work legally paid.
Nobody lives peacefully the decision to relocate his family inside the prison. The convict father is mostly a person who has not on a network of help outside the prison or he is serving a very long sentence. Several of them have also been left by his wife which, to marry, she has abandoned also her children. Prisoners who do not live this situation prefers to see the children only on weekends, protecting them as much as possible from the sad prison context.
In addition to the shelters and individual cells, there are also common dormitories, arranged to accommodate a larger number of prisoners, because the rent of a single cell is quite expensive and many can not afford it.To convict it is given a bed, a personal locker and the possibility to use the common warming. So, without any rehabilitative logic, prisoners in preventive detention, young thieves and small-time dealers must live side by side with murderers, rapists and drug traffickers.
ManuelVictorio Boggiano,convicted for 15 years for having participated in an armed robbery in which three policemen were killed, is a point of reference for many inmates. Accused of being a militant of Sendero Luminoso, a Peruvian terrorist group of Maoist matrix, it is now an avid scholar and he has definitely put aside his past. He is expert in law and lover of philosophy, dreams of completing his university studies as a free man. Despite his long detention is the father of three children who live with her mother outside the walls of San Pedro.
The consumption of soft drugs is widespread in the whole prison population. For smoking the inmates use, for the most part, the pipettes made by rolling up the silver paper that is located inside the pack of cigarettes.The same, are also used to smoke the coca paste, a greenish paste which precedes the cocaine in the refining process.To Purchase any drugs inside the prison is very easy and the prices are so competitive as to induce free citizens to purchase them inside the penitentiar y.