Published: January 15th 2010August 31st 2009
Visiting Men’s Prison of Quito in Ecuador
While visiting friends in a hostel in the mariscal area which is the new town in Quito I read on the information board that it was possible to visit a woman’s and men’s prisons and it was pretty straightforward, so on a Saturday in September I went alone and gave the taxi driver the address, he seamed surprised and asked if I was visiting a friend I joked my dad,
As we pulled up to the prison I wondered it it was such a good idea the area looked run down, so I went to the reception area and ask the guard in Spanish to see somebody that spoke English after about 10 minutes looking through different paperwork he eventually found a guy from Holland for me, so I signed in he took my passport and mobile phone from me an told me where to go, now as I entered the building there was a long aisle and leading off was all wing entrances and you could see the prisoners on the other side of the gate, so now by this stage after looking for my correct wing and seeing the prisoners edging me to come in, I was starting to get nervous as on my previous occasion at Bangkok prison I was face to face with the person but speaking by telephone communication but here was totally different I would be going inside the actually prison area where they sleep, eat and spend there day so first two times I turned back and third time I ask the guard to guide me inside and as soon I got through to the correct wing I saw the guy from Holland he was skinny and white, not hard to disguinish as 95 per cent are from south or central America with dark skin, I cannot remember his name but he was a nice enough guy around 50 years old, bad teach but a character, he said lets go to his cell, so by now I was a bit more relaxed and he offered me a drink of coke which I wasn’t expecting, ahh we can get anything in here except the key for the front door he joked, so we sat on his bed and he spoke about prison life and what he done to be inside, he told me that he and his wife tried to smuggle drugs out of quito airport on their way home to Holland and customs caught them but he took the whole blame so his wife was allowed to go home but he was sentenced to I think 6 years in which he had served half his time. He went on to say it wasn’t that bad living in the prison as long as you stay out of trouble and have a bit money, otherwise no money can be a real struggle, he was fortunate to get money from the Dutch embassy, in his room there was two bunk beds a toilet, a cooking stove on top of the toilet, and a TV and DVD player I was so surprised after reading about the terrible conditions that prisoners live in Thailand with 30 men sharing one toilet and bad nutrition and beatings by guards and very unsafe, this was the opposite starting in common area there was a pool table, a shop, a vending machine, a TV area, then for the outside there was two small football goals and some chickens running around these were for cockfighting every Saturday night and it was forbidden to mess around with them i.e. to kill for a meal.
Apparently under the prison there was tunnels by successful and unsuccessful people, he actually contemplated a escape but for one you would be shot and two: he said where would he go he could not leave Ecuador as he doesn’t have a passport to leave and why would he want to stay in Ecuador, so he will see out his time, we sat in the outside recreational area for a while and while talking other south American prisoners would come over to ask me questions and in the end asking me money, only one I gave some money to he didn’t have a family and wanted to phone his girlfriend, he wouldn´t really tell me what the other prisoners were doing inside for what reason as it was for all mixed crimes and he rather not get involved and better for me not to know so you can imagine the different kinds of people which I was in the same area.
To my surprise my initial impression of the prison areas was that whilst travelling around the world I have actually stayed in a lot worse places and I had to pay to stay this wasn’t at all that bad
Some of these prisoners never have visitors