Inside a Bolivian jail

Subtopia points to Rafael Estefania‘s photo journal of San Pedro prison, home to about 1,500 inmates in La Paz, Bolivia (Spanish version.)


Inside, there are about 200 children playing, market stalls, restaurants, hairdressers and even a hotel. Facilities range from miserable to luxurious. There are no guards, no metal bars on the cell windows. Prisoners have to resolve their problems through representatives elected democratically.

Inmates have to pay for their cells, so most of them have to sell groceries, work as laundry staff, carpenters, shoe-shine boys, TV repairmen, etc.

Few of the inmates are convicted killers – 80% are there for drug-related offences. Only about 25% are actually serving a sentence – the rest are awaiting trial.

Tourists used to be allowed in, but the tours were stopped because many people were coming to buy cocaine, said to be the purest in the country.