San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

0_1ee4c6_730b6b26_origRemember in the second season of the series "Escape" was a prison, which lived by its own laws and there were no guards and bosses. It turns out this is not fiction. In the center of the Bolivian city of La Paz there is the only prison in the world on whose territory the guard’s foot has not stepped.

Photographers Asha Miles and Nadia Pyankova visited the prison of San Pedro, a self-governing commune of convicts who were taken by the Bolivian authorities to a whole block in the center of La Paz.

Let's see how people live there ...
Photo 2.

There is no administration in San Pedro Prison in the usual sense of the word, and therefore there is no accurate statistics on the institution. It is known that from 1,300 to 1,500 people are kept here, about 75% of them are just awaiting trial. 80% were here on charges related to illegal drug trafficking. Cocaine is produced almost openly on the territory and there are two kindergartens - about 200 children live here with their imprisoned fathers. Photographers Asha Miles and Nadia Pyankova talk about the penitentiary utopia (or anti-utopia), which took place in the very center of the one and a half million Bolivian city of La Paz.

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“The first impression when you get to San Pedro is quite unexpected: children run around, vendors prepare freshly squeezed juices, grilled chicken rotates in the ovens, and most of the prisoners just relax, playing billiards, chess, cards or checkers. There is a gym, hairdresser, swimming pool, temple and kindergarten. Judging by the impressive size of the remains of the Christmas tree, in prison and holidays are celebrated in a big way. If it were not for the high walls around the perimeter, nothing would remind of at least some restriction of freedom. San Pedro is today the only prison in the world — a closed city. ”

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“The prison seems to be no different from a small urban area. It is located right in the center of the high-mountain La Paz, in a fortress built back in 1895. The guards guard only borders, inside you will not meet them. At first glance, this is just one of the slum areas of the city, where life is not so different from what is happening outside the walls. ”

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“The majority of prisoners are serving sentences here for“ not particularly grave, ”and many are only awaiting trial. Convicted of murder, you will not meet here, but stealing and selling drugs - very often. ”

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“The prison square covers an area of ​​just over one hectare.The territory is intended for 400 prisoners, but in reality there are at least 1,500 people here. There are no cameras inside: ordinary buildings, courtyards and narrow streets. San Pedro is almost entirely in self-government. ”

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"The prison is divided into eight sectors, each sector has its own name and its own leaders, who form a common prison council."

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“The authorities almost do not interfere in the internal structure, so one can say that democracy formally reigns in San Pedro. Of course, with the reservation on corruption and local authorities. ”

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“The sectors differ in prestige, each has its own football team. For matches are taken more than seriously, you can earn at football betting. According to rumors, the monthly turnover of [prison bookmakers] is $ 20,000. ”

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“What is surprising is that prisoners must pay for their content here. Depending on financial possibilities, they can choose certain conditions for themselves. Someone lives in “one-room cameras,” but most still prefer cheaper housing - common rooms with many beds.

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“Relatives have the opportunity not only to visit prisoners, but even the whole family to move to prison for a time, because housing here is cheaper than in the city.There is a lot of talk about what this is about for the children here. On the one hand, it’s easier for criminals to “learn the bad”, on the other hand, in the city such children [from dysfunctional families] also turn out to be outcasts. Bolivians consider finding children in prison to be the lesser of two evils. ”

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“In 2013, there was a scandal here when a 13-year-old girl became pregnant as a result of rape by a group of men, one of whom was her father. The prisoners themselves say that they take tough measures against the perpetrators in San Pedro, because so many people live with their families. ”

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“The total absence of cameras and“ the work of the jailer as an exercise in tyranny ”(Foucault’s expression) makes San Pedro one of the most humane prisons in the world. Another thing, what can turn such freedom. So, published in 2003, the book of the former prisoner Rusty Young "The Marching Powder" forever linked the name San Pedro with the illegal sale of cocaine. Bolivia today is one of the leaders in the cocaine market, and in prison, according to rumors, you can buy drugs at the lowest prices. ”

Photo 14.

“Until 2009, tourists could visit San Pedro as part of the excursions, but the authorities decided to stop this - it is not hard to guess that foreigners were often imprisoned for not a cultural interest.What is happening now at the prison cocaine factory is hard to say. ”

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“Once upon a time, Coca-Cola was the official distributor of drinks for the prison. Today, plastic tables and chairs with corporate symbolism have remained from former cooperation, which adds to the prison entourage of the resort. As is known, in 2012, Bolivia refused such American women as Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. ”

“We were surprised to hear the Russian language:
“Girls, are you Russians?” - He called us a voice with a barely noticeable accent.
So we met Freddie, a Bolivian who is serving a sentence for a scam with some papers. Freddie has a Russian-speaking wife. According to Freddie, he was convicted by mistake - he did not know that the papers were not in order. In prison, he generally likes. The presence of something inside the “life by definition” or some variant of hazing, he denies; he says that people try to not forget about human dignity. Freddie told us that he did not see the Russians in prison for the first time - a prisoner who had fallen here for drug smuggling had served his sentence here. ”

There are several types of cameras, the state needs to pay for getting into them: the cheapest, multi-seat, with a bunker and lack of amenities - one-time $ 250, for a single room with a TV and a shower - $ 2500.

Only 400 grams of bread or corn porridge per day (water is unlimited) are put here free of charge, the rest is for your own money. It is not surprising that 80% of prisoners (by the way, there are 1,550 of them here) are forced to work in order to provide themselves with food, clothing and other essential goods. In San Pedro Prison, there are several carpentry workshops, a toy factory, a garment factory, a big chicken coop, and so on. The most hard-working can earn up to $ 250 a month here (for Bolivia, where the average salary is $ 140, this is big money).

There is a prison tavern, where anyone can come from the street. It is generally very simple to visit a prison here - any citizen can come into it for an unlimited time; the guards only put an indelible stamp on his hand, in order to distinguish later, at the exit, from the prisoner. This led to the fact that 40% of the prisoners in the cells constantly live their wives and children - they live in prison cheaper than in the wild (no need to pay for housing, communal). In the morning, the children of the cons go from prison to school, and in the evening they return to their home, to the cell.

Another way of earning San Pedro inmates is guided tours of the prison.For 5-10 dollars (the maximum is taken from the Americans) you can walk along it, look into the cameras and even sit in them, play football with the cons. True, the guards take a receipt from the tourists that they were warned about the possible consequences of their walk. But in general, inmates are favorably disposed towards sightseers, treating them like milk cows. The last incident with the tourists was here in early 2011, when a German prisoner wrenched an awl with an awl.

60% of tourist income (in total, they bring up to 80 thousand dollars a year) goes to protection, 40% - to cons in obshchak. By the way, each convict also deducts 10% of their income to the obshchak.

The entire prison is divided into 8 sectors, depending on the severity of the crime. From each sector, 5 deputies are elected to the local council and 1 elder, who is authorized to communicate with the guards. Thus, the prison parliament is 40 people, the council of elders is out of 5. The parliament by voting sets the basic norms of the hostel.

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  • San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners

    San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners San Pedro, Republic of Prisoners