Day 6-Love Between The Walls

Visiting the prison in the Dominican Republic was the number one thing I was looking forward to the most. Driving up to the women’s facility, my initial expectation was that the prison would be dilapidated, old, and dirty. I thought they would all be behind bars with little to no inspiration filled with sadness and little hope. It seems that whenever I am preparing myself for a visit to prison, the only thoughts in my head are the visuals I see on tv. The ones that are shown most.

Once arriving to the facility, I immediately noticed how different, yet similar, it correlated with the US prisons I have visited. There were high stone walls and guards at the gates with shotguns and other weapons, however the front doors to the prison were opened and everyone’s attitude seemed to be calm and relaxed. Instead of only seeing guards at the prison gates with weapons, there was also a statue of what looked to be Jesus. There were crosses all throughout the prison, and guards were smiling instead of looking angry.

The number one difference between the prison here and the correctional facilities within the US is the level of security. Normally going into a prison, visitors are not allowed to have any items with them except for proof of Identification. However within this system, Jonathan notified us that we would be able to take pens and paper for taking notes but we did not need our ID’s. I thought that was very interesting as I was walking off of the bus but I didn’t think anything of it until it was time to enter the prison doors. We never walked through metal detectors, no one patted us down, and none of our garments had to be taken off of us. These are all things that are protocol in the United States, things that if failed to follow will have strict reprimands.

The first area we went to was where the inmates who had a firm sentence and completed trial were held. I have never visited a women’s prison before, but I am almost certain that the prisons in the US do not have as many decorations and freedom as the one we visited today. When we walked into the living quarters, there were many decorations including rugs, curtains, and decorated pillows with names on them. Everything seemed to be color coordinated which was really neat. Outside of each cell, there were the names of the inmate and their classification. There were well behaved inmates and some who caused problems. For those who caused problems, they had less privileges than those well behaved inmates.

I thought it was very calming to have opened windows and the ability to see outside through large windows. Once again that is another difference within the United States. The windows that inmates have in the Us are either extremely small or nonexistent.

There are many programs that the prison offers to the female inmates including beauty salon, nail salon, education, etc. but one thing that stood out to me was the program they had for pregnant women and more specifically women who gave birth. For the women who gave birth they were allowed to keep there baby for two years before the child had to go to a family member or a household outside of the prison. That was so incredible for me because giving the mothers the ability to bond with their children after birth is so important and that is something that does not happen within the United States.

While all of the programs and different operational policies and procedures may be similar or different in their own unique ways, the most important observation that I made was the relationship between the inmates and the guards. They seemed to have a really close relationship, one that allowed the inmate to trust the guard and vice versa. One of the statements the guard made was that they form their system around love and rehabilitation. With the maximum amount of time an individual can spend incarcerated being 30 years, They know that their inmates will be released from prison one day and when they are, they want them to be as prepared as possible so they do their best to give them all the tools necessary so they can be successful.