The visit to the prison in San Cristobal was nothing short of amazing. I have never visited a prison as heartwarming & effective as this one. I found myself comparing this prison with the prisons back home in every aspect.
A few of the main things I noticed about the prisons here was
4.Love & Hope.
Openness. The cell doors were open for inmates to walk around freely. There were bars on the windows but they were still able to see the sun and feel the breeze of air that came through. It looked as if the inmates were not put on complete lockdown like animals but instead treated like actual human beings.
Comfort. The mattresses were thicker and actually looked like they were somewhat comfortable to sleep in. There were shower curtains hanging from where the toilets were, which absolutely blew my mind. Back home, inmates have to live uncomfortably using the restroom in front of others without any privacy at all. The inmates were comfortable hugging the guards and speaking to them freely. There was a sense of kindness, and respect amongst all the people in the prison.
Creative artistic ability. The creative artistic ability was shown by the inmates with their pillows and blankets. These things were handmade by each of them with names and designs stitched on them. We were also able to purchase souvenirs from the prison that were handmade by the inmates. I bought a brown & cream bracelet with beautiful stones. The creativity that I saw in this prison was unlike any I’ve ever seen. They were able to decorate the walls and chairs in the prison instead of being forced to stare at concrete walls. This prison felt more like a rehabilitation center instead of a prison. The modeling and dancing that we saw at the prison were very interesting. I could not imagine going back home to a prison in the U.S. and seeing the inmates showing off their talents. This is something that would never be allowed. The fact that the inmates were allowed to express themselves through things that they enjoy made me feel like not everyone in prison is being punished, which is a really great thing. This could potentially be the difference in a high recidivism rate & a low recidivism rate.
Love. The love that I witnessed warmed my heart. You could tell that the authority figures in the prison really cared about the inmates and wanted them to grow. I’m sure that the bonds and the relationships in the prison will last a lifetime because of the excellent treatment that they are getting. The hope and encouragement that I saw made me feel as if we are doing everything wrong in our prisons. Although there is a difference in the sentencing in our prisons. I don’t see why we aren’t as warm and compassionate to our own.
This prison visit definitely changed my life. The experience of visiting a prison in another country was indescribable. I know as an American I was ashamed of our country after visiting this prison. The way that we treat our inmates is nothing short of inhumane. We have prisons where people are locked down for 23 hours with only 1 hour of recreational time, yet we expect these same people to go out into the world an become a new person. Knowing that prisons are operated differently in different countries gives me a little hope that maybe one day we will change the way that our prisons operate for the better. I know that one person has the ability to make a change in the world and that is one reason why I am a criminal justice major. I understand that instead of complaining about the system we should try to do everything we can to change it.
One very important thing I noticed was the lawyers that were at the prison yesterday when we visited the male center. Before we visited this prison I always knew I wanted to become a lawyer but I never thought about being a lawyer in another country. This excursion has definitely had an impact on my life. Who knows, maybe in several years another study abroad group will see me in the Dominican Republic as a graduate of GSU and as an attorney in D.R.
My story is still being written.