I was able to go to the prison for a program about all the activities they have for the women there. It was actually quite impressive, but almost all of the people running programs are volunteers. There are Guatemalans who come several times a week to help these women. Interestingly, the woman who got the most applause was the psychologist, which I think shows the women really do want help. Another favorite was a professor from the Universidad de Xela who teaches acting. He gave a dramatic performance and all the women cheered!
I was not permitted to take photographs because they don’t want anything negative on the internet. The women smoke and some dress quite provocatively and the admininstration is afraid people will get upset if they see the photos. But they are going to permit me to post the educational powerpoint with all the programs in the prison which I will be able to share.
The program was held upstairs in the prison. The floors are wooden and uneven. In some areas there are boards sticking up that will trip you if you don’t watch out. The paint is peeling off the walls and there are only benches without backs. There are only benches downstairs too but it is not so obvious because everyone is not lined up. The indigenous women sat together against the wall in their traditional clothing while the others sat in the open areas and we all watched the program. Some of the women talked throughout and one kept trying t0 leave. I noticed one woman in particular because she was breastfeeding her baby to order to keep the baby quiet. All the women seem to help take care of one another’s children.
After the presentations the guests were served pastries prepared by the women. They had taken a class in the preparation. The inmates were not supposed to have any but I could see outside of the room into the open courtyard and several of the women were eating. There is constant favortism and having a pastry is the least of the problems.
We needed to have a copy of our passport or the passport itself to get in. They kept them until we were ready to leave. Then we weren’t able to get out until the prisoners were counted to make sure we weren’t trying to take someone home with us. But some two and a half hours after we got in, we got out. Happily, I walked back to my room and celebrated the concept of freedom and the American system of justice.
It is so hard to understand how these women just sit there all day. I asked one woman when she will go to court and she said she has no idea. Another said she has a fine to pay, which she will never be able to. Will she be there 20 years like another woman? I don’t know. But I do really appreciate being an attorney in the United States. And to be honest I appreciate it more than I ever did before.