Thursday, April 7, 2011

If you do the crime, here's where to do the time!

Tolemaida 'resort' (Photo from Semana magazine)
The story recalls the days of cocaine king Pablo Escobar's luxurious La Catedral prison on a Medellin hilltop, with its girls, big screen TV, soccer field and every other luxury a crime boss could ask for.

Except, this time the inmates were military men, convicted for offenses including murder of multiple civilians.

The Tolemaida Reclusion Center resembled more a country resort than any sort of prison. The 'inmates' had freedom to roam the grounds, operated businesses, sometimes lived in cabins and enjoyed visits, Semana magazine reported. Many of the prisoners even left the 'prison' for vacations - as far away as San Andres Island.

Tolemaida Prison (Photo: El Pais)
In a way, it's not surprising. These men were members of the fraternity of military men and it's hard imagining soldiers imposing strict punishments on each other. And, most likely, their fellow soldiers and officers believed that the killings were necessary or forgivable 'mistakes' made during conflict.

I've heard stories myself about corruption in regular Colombian prisons, but nothing like this. People smuggle in cell phones, drugs and weapons (and that was a women's prison). But the corruption doesn't appear to reach the rampant levels of prisons in Bolivia and Venezuela, where the guards control the gates and the inmates control everything inside.

By Mike Ceaser, of Bogotá Bike Tours

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