Social Documentary Photography – 1996 Prison Living Conditions In Venezuela

STARVED:
The prison food is a gross, insect-infested mush, served up three times a day to hungry men who must have their own containers because tray and utensils are not provided.

 

Five time Pulitzer Prize nominee, Photojournalist Jon Kral is the Edge of Humanity Magazine contributor of this documentary photography.   To see Jon’s portfolio of work click on any image.

 

OUTHOUSE: In this Caracas prison, excrement flows onto an abandoned basketball court. Cells have no toilets: relief is out the window. Cleanup is neglected because some prisoners at the windows have guns and a good eye for moving targets.

OUTHOUSE:
In this Caracas prison, excrement flows onto an abandoned basketball court. Cells have no toilets: relief is out the window. Cleanup is neglected because some prisoners at the windows have guns and a good eye for moving targets.

 

Latin Prisons Hell On Earth © Jon Kral

In 1996 violent riots were increasing within the prisons throughout Latin America. The reasons are easy to see, if you can get inside some of these dank, dirty, stinking buildings where young men are thrown together to serve time.

People spend years in these horrible places before they are sentenced for their crimes. And, their crimes can be as simple as loitering, drinking, or just being poor and in the wrong place. In this world, the prisoners are often more heavily armed then the guards, human rights do not exist and money is the only thing that greases a system so clogged and corrupt that changes for the better seem almost impossible.

Arrangements for photographing inside the Venezuelan prisons took months and once inside, a writer and I were given a superficial tour. Working as a team, we managed to get into areas the guards intended to hide.

Then I saw for myself what one prisoner told me:  “It’s a lot worse then any movie you’ve seen.”

 

NO END IN SIGHT: This 26-year-old man has spent nearly one-third of his life in prison and hasn’t been sentenced. Almost 8 of every 10 Venezuelan prisoners have not received a sentence because the system is clogged and corrupt.

NO END IN SIGHT:
This 26-year-old man has spent nearly one-third of his life in prison and hasn’t been sentenced. Almost 8 of every 10 Venezuelan prisoners have not received a sentence because the system is clogged and corrupt.

 

THE BOX: A 3-by 5-foot cell that would be small for one is often stuffed with five or more inmates who must served their punishment virtually skin-to-skin.

THE BOX:
A 3-by 5-foot cell that would be small for one is often stuffed with five or more inmates who must served their punishment virtually skin-to-skin.

 

SLEEPLESS: Inmates, sometimes fear being attacked in their sleep. Most of the inmates in the infirmary were there for stab wounds inflicted by other prisoners. Many of the inmates are jailed for murder.

SLEEPLESS:
Inmates, sometimes fear being attacked in their sleep. Most of the inmates in the infirmary were there for stab wounds inflicted by other prisoners. Many of the inmates are jailed for murder.

 

GRIM REMINDER: This macabre juxtaposition inside a Caracas prison is a crude reminder of the daily threat of violence that pervades the prisons.

GRIM REMINDER:
This macabre juxtaposition inside a Caracas prison is a crude reminder of the daily threat of violence that pervades the prisons.

 

Especially sensitive about their international image, Venezuelan officials moved quickly to respond to these photographs. One of the worst prisons was demolished a couple of months later. Nearly 600 prisoners were transferred to a newer prison outside of the city.

 

See also:

Originals

Books

By Jon Kral

 


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