La Modelo prison in Botogá, Colombia, is notorious for the free reign that its 11,000 odd inmates enjoy. The prisoners completely run the show, with easy access to guns and grenades, while the prison guards do not carry any weapons inside the premises.
The inmates frequently resort to violence in order to settle disputes between the left-wing rebels and the right-wing government supporters and paramilitaries that inhabit the north and south wings of the prison, respectively. The rivalry between the two sections has lead to several killings, all of which were carried out in the central area in between the two wings. Members of the guerrilla movement FARC who are imprisoned in the north wing actually carry out their military drills within their section of the establishment. Ammunition is smuggled into the prison and sold at about $1,000 per gun, thanks to the cooperation of corrupt officials.
Guns aren’t the only perks that the inmates enjoy. They use cell phones freely and have access to satellite communication, which allows them to carry on with their criminal activities in the outside world, like drug dealing, kidnapping, and extortion. They even have restaurants inside the prison, one of which is sponsored by FARC and provides free food to left-wing rebels. Other restaurants are run by individual inmates, who pay taxes to the gangs every month. But the most baffling of perks enjoyed by La Modelo inmates is ‘Ciambiazo’ or ‘big change’, in which a prisoner can change places with a visitor from the outside for only 2,000 to 2,500 dollars.
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