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.
ATTN: VIDEO RELEASE + PETITION PUSHViviana speaks out on #FreeMelecioTomorrow morning, Viviana and her legal team will be submitting an official request for Melecio’s stay of removal along with the petition (tinyurl.com/Free-Melecio). WE NEED AS MANY SIGNATURES AS POSSIBLE, ASAP. Please share this video in all of your networks and heavily plug the petition. Also, KEEP THE PHONE CALLS TO ICE COMING (see: https://goo.gl/2ig94u for instructions). Let’s win this! #Not1More #NiUnaMasThank you to Amani Hill Sebi Medina-Tayac, Athena Wheaton, & Andrew Schmidt for all of their help compiling this video. Much love.
Viviana Morales is fighting to save her father, Melecio, from deportation. It all happened because Morales, a student at Yale, wanted to petition for her father to obtain permanent residency in the U.S.
According to the family’s GoFundMe page, when Morales went with her father Melecio to a Denver court to petition for his residency, court officials prohibited Viviana from going inside the room with her father. Morales says she was told her father had been recommended for approval so there was no need for her to go inside with him.
The GoFundMe page says court officials mislead Morales: “Twenty minutes later, Melecio’s lawyer informed Viviana that her father had been aggressively removed from the room. She was not allowed to speak to her father until ICE arrived on the premises. When ICE entered, they aggressively pushed Melecio’s lawyer and interpreter out of the room, and said that they had an expedited removal proceeding for Melecio. However, they refused to show the lawyer proof.”
Viviana and her siblings have been without their father since October 12.
CREDIT: Facebook/Free Melecio
“This has been a traumatic experience for my father” the 22-year-old told WTNH news. “This has been his worst nightmare since he entered.”
The GoFundme page goes on to state that Melecio has worked in Denver ever since he moved to the U.S. in 1998.
Hans Meyer, Melecio’s immigration attorney, told the Denver Post that Melecio was detained because he was stopped in 1991 at the border in Texas. He was deported in 1997, and he returned to the U.S. “undetected” in 1998.
On Oct. 17, Viviana’s Yale classmates protested to call for the release of Melecio.
“Viviana is one of my very close friends, someone who has really changed the way I approach school, the way that I interact with people and this has deeply affected her so it deeply affected me as well,” Fernando Rojas, a Yale junior, told WTNH News.