Things That Matter

This Venezuelan Prison Lets Inmates Dance, Drink And Shoot Guns

On Venezuela’s Margarita Island, you’ll find a prison that is nothing like you have ever seen. When you think of prison, you probably think about handball courts, free weights and solitary confinement cells. That’s not what goes down at San Antonio prison, which functions more like a resort that a typical correctional facility. It gives inmates so much freedom that some of them willingly return after their release.

This goes down at San Antonio prison. Seriously.

Dancing
Credit: The New York Times / YouTube

That’s New York Times footage of inmates dancing to music played by a DJ. Yes, a DJ. In a prison.

The prison also has an annex for women, and the two sexes are allowed to commingle.

Friends
Credit: SBS Dateline / YouTube

The prison also features conjugal rooms set up for visits from significant others.

Prisoners can access luxuries like oysters for lunch, or hammocks for lounging around.

Oysters
Credit: The New York Times / YouTube

“I found a restaurant, I found a place with barbecued chicken,” one inmate told the New York Post. “There are places to drink. It is not like a prison.”

They can also take a dip in a pool… or play a little pool.

pool-san-antonio
Credit: The New York Times / YouTube

Drugs are openly consumed in San Antonio prison.

Drugs
Credit: The New York Times / YouTube

Any drug from marijuana to crack is available and openly consumed in the prison.

But don’t let the party atmosphere fool you. Violence is still a problem at San Antonio Prison. They openly carry guns after all.

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Credit: The New York Times / YouTube

Despite the fact that prisoners carry guns, inmates told The New York Times that compared to other prisons, “peace often prevails” in San Antonio.

Teófilo Rodríguez Cazorla, El Conejo, is the man behind this prison’s particular atmosphere.

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Credit: @militzacrb / Twitter

As an inmate, he took over the prison by force and became its “Pran,” or boss. El Conejo told The New York Times the prison was a total disaster when he first arrived. He said there was no respect among the inmates, so he changed things up.

Earlier this year, El Conejo, who was still a prisoner, was killed outside of a nightclub. To honor his death, prisoners in San Antonio prison gave him a salute… with gun fire.

Shooting
Credit: CLUB VENEZUELA / YouTube

Here are the armed guards near the prison during El Conejo’s send off.

GuardsSayNo
Credit: Alan Hernández / YouTube

Check out dude in the bottom right corner. Clearly this isn’t his first run-in with the party prison. #BossLevel ?

But Iris Valera, who is the person in charge of the Venezuelan prison system, defends the culture within the prison.

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Credit: reporteconfidencial.info/ militzacrb / Twitter

Yep, that’s her with the late Teófilo Rodríguez Cazorla. She told Argentine news agency Infobae that opening a “nightclub” and allowing for an improvement in the quality of life is how Venezuela is trying to keep prison violence low.

Inmates appear to enjoy the hedonistic atmosphere. Like this prisoner told SBS Dateline:

LiveWell
Credit: SBS Dateline / YouTube

“Yes. We’re prisoners but we live well.”

READ: Mexican Man Caught Stealing Trompo Meat from Taco Shop

Share this story with all your friends by tapping that share button below and just think about the fact that they are the prisoners…

A Twenty-One Year Old Man Overslept On His First Day Of Jury Duty And Now He’s Being Sentenced To Jail And Has A Record

Things That Matter

A Twenty-One Year Old Man Overslept On His First Day Of Jury Duty And Now He’s Being Sentenced To Jail And Has A Record

screenshot | NBC Nightly News

These days, it doesn’t take much poking around to know that our country’s judicial system is problematic, troublesome and inherently racist. A few months ago, when news broke out about the college admissions scandals, those following the news knew well that the wealthy parents who took part in the scam would walk away essentially scot-free. They weren’t wrong. 

Earlier last month, on September 13th, actress Felicity Huffman, one of the most recognizable names caught up in the admissions scandal, was sentenced to just 14 days in federal prison for her involvement in a case that saw her charged for conspiracy to commit mail fraud and honest services mail fraud. Huffman’s case highlighted questions of inequity in our judicial system. Many were quick to point out that Huffman, like the other three dozen parents involved, were from extreme wealth and would undoubtedly be treated differently from poor or nonwhite defendants accused of admission and education fraud. For severe charges that were lobbed at white-collar crime convicts like former Enron CEO Jeffrey Skilling and took education opportunities away from students far less privileged than her own kids, Huffman received 14 days in jail. 

Twenty-one-year-old Deandre Somerville should have been so lucky. 

The Florida man from West Palm Beach was sentenced to 10 days in jail this past week after a judge found him in criminal contempt of court after he overslept and missed the start of a trial he had been selected to serve jury duty for. At the time, Somerville looked up the repercussions online and according to NBC News said that he “didn’t really see too much there. … [It looked like] nobody actually ever really went to jail for it.”  Because of this, he did not notify the court or its jury office.

Deandre Somerville was sentenced to 10 days in jail, one year of probation and 150 hours of community service for failing to show up for jury duty.

The 21-year-old was also told to write a letter of apology to the court and pay $223 to cover court costs. Speaking about his own sentence, Somerville told NBC that he felt as if he “didn’t need any rehabilitation… I just made a mistake.”

According to Somerville, his 10 days in jail were “traumatic.” Sommerville who recently moved in with his grandparents to help care for them had never been arrested before now has a criminal record for contempt and spent his 10 days in jail amongst hardened criminals and in fear. 

The judge who gave Somerville his sentencing stemmed from his duty to represent his Black community.

Speaking at Somerville’s formal apology in court, Judge John Kastrenakes, of Fort Lauderdale Florida, said that he wanted to “make an example” out of Somerville to ensure more people do not fail to show up to jury duty. “Mr. Somerville was the only African American on our jury and represented a very important cross-section of our community.”

But people of color have long been used to “make an example,” when privileged nonpeople of color have caused greater harm and damage and gotten off easy. 

Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was quick to underline this point in a recent tweet shared with her profile. 

“Mass incarceration is our American reality. It is a system whose logic evolved from the same lineage as Jim Crow, American apartheid, & slavery. To end it, we have to change. That means we need to have a real conversation about decarceration & prison abolition in this country,” she wrote in a retweet of a post shared by comedian Chelsea Handler who also lambasted the judge for his decision. 

AOC’s retweet went onto highlight in a thread the flaws of our judicial system citing a recent experience she had meeting a woman who had been sent to Rikers as a teen.” Yesterday morning I spoke with a woman who was thrown in Rikers as a teenager. Put in solitary confinement for MONTHS, aka torture. Force-fed pills. The conditions were so bad, she too had drank out of toilets. A cage is a cage is a cage. And humans don’t belong in them,” Ocasio-Cortez wrote.

The young Congresswoman’s thread highlights the severe punishments people of color have and continued to endure at the cost of our country’s broken prison and judicial system. Her message is a reminder that the actual point of the prison system is to rehabilitate, not punish those who are incarcerated and sent to jail or prison. 

Here’s How US Banks Are Jeopardizing The Financial Future Of Private Prisons

Things That Matter

Here’s How US Banks Are Jeopardizing The Financial Future Of Private Prisons

@graphik_h / Unsplash

Activists have been protesting to end the for-profit prison system. While there hasn’t been a lot of movement there, there is finally some news that shows the mounting pressure is working. Two major private prison companies, GEO Group and CivicCore have lost all of their major bank partners shutting down crucial credit lines. People are celebrating the announcement.

Infamous private prison companies CivicCore and GEO Group are in a lot of financial trouble.

Credit: @RAICESTEXAS / Twitter

According to Forbes, GEO Group and CivicCore are losing $2.4 billion in credit lines from the banks who were still doing business with them. For reference, that is 87.4 percent of all of their future funding. This is major news as the private prison system has relied on the investment and funding from these banks.

The two companies are behind the growth of the private prisons and detention centers littered throughout the country.

Credit: @ewarren / Twitter

JPMorgan Chase, Wells Fargo, Bank of America, SunTrust, BNP Paribas, Fifth Third Bancorp, Barclays, and PNC have all pledged not to renew their business with the two incarceration-based companies. Private prisons are a rather new phenomenon in the U.S. and has led to questionable practices. Many critics question the business model that strives to increase the population and time of those incarcerated to make money.

People are celebrating this news as a move in the right direction.

Credit: @MonaVieBeachBum / Twitter

While the big banks have walked away, some smaller regional banks are still supporting the companies for now. Those banks include Regions (based in Birmingham, Alabama), Citizens Bank ( based in Providence, Rhode Island), Pinnacle Bank (based in Nashville, Tennessee)First Tennessee Bank (based in Memphis, Tennessee), and Synovus Bank (based in Columbus, Georgia).

Some folks took to Twitter to share dismay int he banks stepping away from the companies, but their arguments fell flat.

Credit: @Tocqueville001 / Twitter

It’s interesting that some people want private businesses to do what they want only when it benefits their views. It is hard to argue that these private companies should be sued for ending their business when you want private prison businesses to thrive.

The bottom line is that people do not want to know that people are financially profiting off of keeping people in prison.

Credit: @teefnolan / Twitter

Polls show the Americans favor rehabilitation over tough penalties and punishments. The mood is so favorable toward rehabilitation that even President Trump spoke about criminal justice reform.

Now, it seems activists might move their focus at for-profit bail companies.

Credit: @UdiACLU / Twitter

The for-profit cash bail bond industry is notoriously racist and classist. The concept of making people pay cash to be released from jail as they await their court date disproportionately impacts low-income communities of color.

READ: US Immigration Officials Are Using Google Translate To Read Migrant’s Social Media Posts Instead Of Hiring Actual Translators