San Pedro Prison - Surreal doesn´t even come close

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December 7th 2008
Published: February 1st 2009
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the gatethe gatethe gate

entry to the jail

Everything is possible. Nothing is certain


South American Motto

This place is by far the weirest place I have ever been to in my life. Wierd doesn't even come close. If I had to define I would have to summarise with words like; bizzare, surreal, incomprehensive, corrupt, misguided, unlawful, harrowing, fearful, organised, unrighteous and wrong. Yet it is a tourist attraction and one that if you are in the area, I have to recommend that you see. The tour round the prison is utterly illegal but the guards dont mind as they get half of the money you pay to go round. If you hang about the front of the jail you are greeted by the infamous Kenny who then ushers you inside and though the security. When inside you are taken to the gym area where your guide, an inmate, tells you about eveything in the jail and what you're going to see. There is also a famous book called Marching Powder that was written inside the jail that everyone recommends you read.

What we saw was just bizzare. Families living inside the jail as its cheaper for them to move in with their husband than it is for
meeting pointmeeting pointmeeting point

the start of the tour
them to live outside the prison. Whole families, children and a complete industry of ways to make money inside. There were stalls and food and even toys being made from tin cans being manufactured and sold outside the pirson. You need money to survive here. If you want your case heard at court, you have to be able to pay for it. If you have more money, you get heard quicker. If you have no money, you dont get heard at all. The whole system inside is run by the innmates, and the old ones. The guards take no role at all, it is self policed. Stragngely it works. It has too though as there are children everywhere and they have to be safe as there are murderers and peadophiles inside. The longest term you can serve is 30 years and no matter what else you do, you cant have a longer scentance. So here, people do literally get away with murder.

Bolivia is by far te most corrupt country I have ever been to. In the jail itsef they make cocaine and get the guards ot sell it on the street. The police catch people using
playing with the weightsplaying with the weightsplaying with the weights

everything was creative as nothing is provided for the inmates
and if you can't bribe them to get free, you end up in the jail making the stuff you were put away for. The police then sell the drugs back to the inmates for half price! It is one of the most crazy things I have ever heard or seen. The whole tour was just wrong and being a part of it by paying to see it was wrong too, but it has to be seen to be believed. Even at the end of the tour, when you think it cant get any more surreal, they take you into one of the cells and offer you "a white christmas" if you want to sample their goods. We all declined.

I dont really know what else to say about this place. The whole experiance left you kinda numb after and what I did have a problem with was knowing that my mmoney to take the tour went in the pockets of criminals and yet there I am walking past beggars on the street without giving. Its just all backwards.

Additional photos below
Photos: 23, Displayed: 23


rickety stairwayrickety stairway
rickety stairway

the place was a maze of exterior walkways
kitchen viewkitchen view
kitchen view

it was supposedly closed for cleaning. things going on behind closed doors

inner courtyard and shops
production lineproduction line
production line

toy vehicles from tin
kids involvedkids involved
kids involved

entire families were here helping to make to sell to earn for the prisoners
girls helpgirls help
girls help

here she was painting the wheels to go onh the vehicles
bedroom workshopbedroom workshop
bedroom workshop

an ill-placed sense of familiiarity. i know all too well what it is like to have ur workshop in ur bedrrom, but this?!
prisoner in practiceprisoner in practice
prisoner in practice

soldering tin. if the jail doesn´t kill him, the fumes will
tin scrapyardtin scrapyard
tin scrapyard

surplus of tin tractors
more than enoughmore than enough
more than enough

how these sell well i dont know. there was a build up in rooms evey where. here they lie on his bed
solitary confinementsolitary confinement
solitary confinement

the gap between the two walls is solitary confinement, you can be there for years

all over the walls was decoarted messages, no grafiti to be found
rules of engagementrules of engagement
rules of engagement

for those of you who can read spanish, here are the prisons rules for the inmates
a family placea family place
a family place

children running round asking for candy and their photos to be taken
the football teamthe football team
the football team

an inner pride for the innmates
the wake up poolthe wake up pool
the wake up pool

if ur not up at the bell, this is where u go
running a muckrunning a muck
running a muck

the kids wanting their photo taken

a litle business at every corner
a white christmas?a white christmas?
a white christmas?

At the end of the tour, the famous question, would you like some of our own produced cocaine?

29th June 2009

sounds like an enterprise idea to take to mexico
woah. your summary of words for this place is the same pool for my words on mexico in its entirety and at all levels, of which i have only begun to understand after living there 3 months. it all happens blatantly and explicitly in mexico (it's the big white elephant hiding right in front of you), but to provide a guided circus/zoo/tourist attraction of the actual fucked-upness.... wow, that just brings a whole 'nother level to it!

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