Women in prison

Women in Ilopango prison -- photo by Jesus Flores

A friend of mine left for El Salvador today on a medical and holistic healing trip to El Salvador.  As part of this trip, her team has been invited to provide medical screening within a women's prison in El Salvador.  She asked me to write a post about the conditions of incarceration for women imprisoned in El Salvador.

According to the most recent statistics, this month there are 2648 women prisoners who make up 9.8% of the total prison population in El Salvador.   Children under age 5 can stay with their mothers in the prison.

When you research prison conditions for these women, you get two different pictures.   The official picture from the government's prison administration shows women inmates participating in a variety of activities in attractive surroundings.

There is the:

But the picture from visitors to the prisons tells a different story.   The conditions of the women's prisons mirror the horrible overcrowding and unhealthy conditions which plague the entire prison system.  

A church group from Alabama wrote this after visiting Ilopango prison:
A small group from the parish volunteered to visit the women’s prison in the town of Ilopango. The conditions in this and other Salvadoran prisons are horrible, prompting the Archbishop of San Salvador to liken a visit to a Dantian descent into hell. The overcrowding has created health problems with six women occupying spaces designed for one. But our greatest surprise was to encounter one hundred and twenty five children under the age of five, incarcerated with their mothers. There is hardly enough food for the adult prisoners and what is available has to be shared with the children. On the day of our visit the children, even the babies, were having a breakfast of hot dogs.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and you can see scenes of prison life for the women inmates in El Salvador in these photo collections:

  • Jesus Flores photos
  • Meredith Kohut photos  
  • New Yorker photo essay on women and violence in recent Salvadoran history.  

I'll follow up with a first hand account from my friend when she returns.


Paul Kirby said…
Shocking stuff. It'll be interesting to read your friend's account.
Hodad said…
I will also, as someone that was in the jail in Montibello? , south side of town, I was right next to the women's cage, maybe 60 women in there, I was maybe 2 feet away, we talked a bit but there were some rough cookies in there,