I spent nine years in a Colombian women’s prison. This is what I learned

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I spent nine years in a Colombian women’s prison. This is what I learned

23 October 2023
Claudia Cardona
The Guardian

When I started my jail sentence in Bogotá, Colombia, it was 2008 and I was 31 with a four-year-old daughter. I was imprisoned for nine years and three months. I don’t tell people the reason I went to prison. Not for me, but for all the free women who face so many problems because of the time they spent in jail. My crime doesn’t make me the person I am.

Most women in Colombia commit crime out of a need to provide for their families. They are judged and punished without society or the justice system taking the circumstances surrounding the crime into account.

When women go to jail for the first time, most don’t know anything about prison. They have in their heads what they’ve seen in films; women have no idea what will happen to them and go into prison very scared. No one explains anything. You’re sent to the cell and it’s the other women who tell you how things work.

The food is terrible. I would get meat that looked as if it was decomposing; it smelled and looked bad. Food was often burned and juices also smelled bad. Soups were basically water. Everyone had to eat it – it was that or nothing.

The prison in Bogotá is one of the biggest in Colombia, housing 1,859 women. There is one doctor on duty during the day and another at night. Women can’t get appointments. There are lots of sick people and a lack of specialist care.