The San Pedro Prison tours look like they are ending for good. After gaining notoriety from the book Marching Powder, the not-exactly-legal tours of this bizarre prison without guards became a popular part of backpackers’ tours through Bolivia. Inside, visitors could observe a prison unlike any other – where inmates with the right resources were afforded luxuries unthinkable anywhere else like saunas, alcohol, and full-service restaurants.
Of course, the prison also has its fair share of problems. It was no secret that drugs are easily available there. In fact, they even produce cocaine inside the prison walls. And not just any cocaine, supposedly its the purest cocaine available in Bolivia. For a prison full of drug producers and traffickers this is obviously not ideal.
Faced with no way to support their families on the outside, many women and children actually reside inside the prison with their husbands or fathers.
Visiting San Pedro Prison in late 2010 was one of the most bizarre and outrageous things we have ever done.
While I wouldn’t say we felt “safe” inside the prison’s walls, luckily we didn’t have anything bad happen to us.
Sadly, the straw that broke the camel’s back appears to have been the rape of a 12-year-old girl. From the BBC:
Inmates at Bolivia’s biggest prison have said they are protesting against government plans to close the jail.
They said they should instead be helped to integrate back into society.
Bolivia’s prison service said shutting down San Pedro prison in La Paz would put an end to “cocaine trafficking and other abuses” carried out by prisoners.
The decision follows allegations that a 12-year-old girl became pregnant inside the jail after being repeatedly raped by her imprisoned father and other men.
You can read a full account of our visit to The San Pedro Prison during our stay in La Paz, Bolivia.