Photographers' Blog

Behind bars in Central African Republic

Bangui, Central African Republic

By Siegfried Modola

Decades of poor governance in Central African Republic followed by over a year of sectarian conflict and chronic insecurity has crippled even the most basic government services in the country.

A new interim government is faced with the mammoth task of resuscitating the nation’s infrastructure while attempting to bring peace and stability, paving the way for presidential elections next year.

As the divide between Christians and Muslims in CAR grows ever deeper – with the U.N.’s head human rights official saying that atrocities are being committed with impunity – it is clear that the transitional government together with the African Union and French peacekeepers are struggling to enforce the rule of law.

 

Brutal acts of violence are committed nearly every day in the streets of Bangui and in other parts of the country. Most of them are left unpunished; there simply isn’t any government manpower to bring those who carry out such crimes to justice.

I decided it was important to visit and document the central prison in Bangui to see how the state was handling the detention of criminals under such difficult circumstances.

High fashion under high security

Juiz de Fora, Minas Gerais, Brazil

By Paulo Whitaker

A stylish, high-society blonde smelling of French perfume, inside a maximum security prison teaching prisoners to knit, truly seemed like a scene from a movie. But that’s what I found in Juiz de Fora, a medium-sized city in Brazil’s southeastern state of Minas Gerais.

Just a few years ago, Raquell Guimaraes, now 32, began working with her mother to knit clothing in tricot. They enjoyed success and with an increase in orders she needed more knitters, but couldn’t find enough. That was when she decided to visit the Arisvaldo de Campos Pires maximum security penitentiary in Juiz de Fora, about 100 miles (160 kms) north of Rio de Janeiro. There, Ms. Guimaraes found her perfect knitters, people with available time, some with as many as 20 years to spare.

At first, she presented to the prison administration a proposal to train female prisoners to produce her clothing. But after talking with the warden, Andrea Andires, they concluded that it would be more productive to work with male prisoners, an idea that at first seemed a little bizarre. These prisoners have violent histories, and the question was whether men imprisoned for offenses such as armed robbery, drug trafficking, and murder, could learn to knit tricot. This was the gamble that Guimaraes and Andires took, with excellent results.

Last days in a Siberian prison

Outside Krasnoyarsk, Russia

By Ilya Naymushin

Boris Kovalyov is not my hero – not at all. I have never understood such people, the way they think, the way they live. But journalists work with all kinds of people, and to me, people in extreme circumstances have always been of particular interest. And so Kovalyov, a non-hero, became the hero of my photo story, which might be called “The Last Ten Days in a Siberian Prison Camp.”

Boris is 32 years old. He was first jailed for theft, and was sent to a prison camp near Krasnoyarsk. After a few years he was granted early release, with the understanding that he had learned his lesson. Under Russian law, a relapse into crime means the convict serves the time he was spared by early release, and is often sent to a higher-security prison.

Boris was not out long before he was arrested again, for drug trafficking, and sentenced to eight years in a high-security prison camp. He was sent to a prison near the village of Ariysk where most of the inmates are recidivists. After two and a half years he was moved to an even stricter camp north of Krasnoyarsk.

Love within boundaries

By Mariana Bazo

The Lurigancho prison in Lima is one of the most overcrowded, violent and unruly jails in Latin America. More than 8,500 prisoners live within its walled perimeter with so much freedom that they have created their own city which reproduces the urban society on the outside, including its most unjust and grotesque aspects. The passageways and open areas are filled with vendors, food stands, soccer fields, industrial zones, rehabilitation centers, barber shops and even pet animals.

It is a tyranny with its own laws imposed by the president and bosses of each sector. Its unique social and economic strata, with classes of poor and rich, are all governed by the power of money and force.

Luri, their affectionate-sounding nickname for Lurigancho, is like a reproduction of Lima with all the entrepreneurial spirit, creativity, and resourcefulness of its inhabitants as they look for work in incredible places.

Full gamut of emotions

By Mike Segar

One of the many great things about being a Reuters wire service photographer is the wide spectrum of things that you get to witness and photograph from assignment to assignment. Of course, not every assignment brings you to a place or a situation that excites or moves you emotionally or visually, but over the past week I have had the fortunate experience of shooting two completely different types of assignments that brought me to two completely different experiences.

From the final game of the 2012 NBA finals in Miami last Thursday night where I was front and center to photograph LeBron James and the Miami Heat as they celebrated clinching the title victory over the Oklahoma City Thunder where the pure joy and excitement of sport was on full display, to a far different type of emotion at a New York City prison where inmates earned their high school diplomas.

SLIDESHOW: GRADUATING, FROM PRISON

At the NBA finals, hours of preparation, the setting and testing of remote cameras, days of shooting the action of each game in the series and trying to capture the peak of action culminated in the release of emotion the players displayed after reaching their ultimate goal. As a photographer, the nerves and the anticipation of trying to make the best possible pictures of that emotion for our clients around the world dominate your focus and attention. When it is all over and the pictures have been sent a real sense of relief of knowing you captured the best of what happened on the court in front of you comes.

Mother’s Day behind bars

By Lucy Nicholson

The children bounded off the bus and ran excitedly towards a tall fence topped with razor wire. In the distance, through layers of fencing overlooked by a guard tower, huddled a group of mothers in baggy blue prison-issue clothes, pointing, waving and gasping. Many had not seen their children in over a year.

Frank Martinez jumped up and down, shrieking with delight. “Stay right there Mommy,” he yelled. “Don’t cry.” As the children disappeared into a building to be searched and x-rayed, a couple of the mothers began sobbing.

An annual Mother’s Day event, Get On The Bus, provides free transport for hundreds of children to visit their incarcerated moms at California Institute for Women in Chino, and other state prisons. Sixty percent of parents in state prison report being held over 100 miles from their children, and visits are impossible for many.

My day in a California prison

The first inkling I had that it wasn’t going to be an ordinary day at work was the dress code; no tight or revealing clothing, no blue jeans, no blue shirts, no orange clothing, no jewelry, no cell phones.

For the first time, I thought of the possible mental state of the people I was visiting, and how little some of them would have to lose.

I had been in a car crash (not serious) the day before. I wasn’t expecting anything bad to happen to me inside the prison. But imagined that if it did it would be much the same kind of sudden violence coming out of nowhere.

My cap from Korea

It was 9 a.m. in Paraguay when I heard on the radio RIOT IN TACUMBU PRISON. It had started at 8.

Police with dogs arrive at the Tacumbu prison as prisoners held hostages inside during an uprising for better conditions in Asuncion

The visual impact that a picture can cause is fully validated when it comes from a witness, and even more so when it comes from a danger zone. This is what happened on June 20th when the prisoners of the Esperanza ward of the Tacumbu prison took as hostages warden Mario Pairet and a group of guards.

I headed straight for the prison, thinking about how to describe the horrible spectacle that the protagonists, relatives and friends, and all those involved in some way, were enduring. I thought that when I arrived at the prison entrance the situation might be under control, but to my surprise it wasn’t.

  • Editors & Key Contributors