Credit: Team Coco/ YouTube
Sofia Niño De Rivera is a stand-up comedian whose name may not sound familiar. But the 35-year-old Mexican comedian has her own Netflix special, and has even appeared on U.S. late night television. You can see her in the video above clip from “Conan” when Conan O’Brien visited Mexico back in March.
Now, Rivera is turning the microphone on criminals to teach them comedy. Behind bars in Santa Martha Acatitla penitentiary, female inmates experience all the pitfalls of prison: fear, depression, aggression, and restlessness. As a way to help prisoners with their mental health, Rivera set up 10 stand-up comedy workshops. Inmates perform on stage and use laughter to heal. “Stand-up is a really cathartic psychological tool. It has helped me a lot in my life,” Rivera said in an interview with BBC. “Women in prison don’t have a lot of tools to help them handle emotional issues, I think stand-up is something that can help them.”
Women only make up 5% of the prison population in Mexico City, which means they usually get fewer services and care. They get fewer visits from family members, many of whom abandon their incarcerated relatives, according to BBC. Rivera works with the Reinserta Foundation, a non-profit started by her cousin Saskia Niño de Rivera, to help advocate for imprisoned women. Officials at the prison say that the workshops have helped ease tension and are even planning on expanding the program, possibly to men’s prisons as well.
Check out the trailer for Rivera’s Netflix special below.
— Netflix LATAM (@NetflixLAT) June 24, 2016