The view from inside a Colombian prison

In addition to being a traveler and a blogger, I am also, in my spare time, a full-time law student. (Should it be the other way around? Oh well.) As a future lawyer interested in criminal law, I’ve had a couple of opportunities to see the inside of American prisons, and they were just as you probably imagine them– sterile without being clean, well-lit without being remotely pleasant, and overall just depressing as hell.

Because of my twin interests in criminal law and travel, I was especially interested to stumble across a post full of photographs from inside a Colombian prison, a place that most of us (let’s hope) will only ever see in photographs. The shots themselves were mostly taken by the inmates at the prison, and they are the culmination of a one-week documentary photography class taught by Vance Jacobs, a photojournalist invited by an English language school in Medellin to teach eight inmates photography.

The Colombian prison system bears a lot of resemblance to the American one, with a couple notable exceptions:

  • Not all inmates receive a cell. Because of overcrowding, prisoners who want a cell are expected to rent or purchase them. Those without cells are called “pirates.”
  • Despite popular misconceptions, many American prisons do not allow conjugal visits. In Colombia, however, about 3,500 women arrive at the prison every Sunday to “visit” with their husbands and boyfriends.
  • Inmates with money may hire other inmates to cook for them, clean their cells, and do their laundry.

For the entire fascinating (to me, anyway) post, head right here.