on our trip this weekend, we headed to nagua - a small town north of the even smaller town where amalio's family lives - to see my brother-in-law juan.
juan got into some trouble a few months ago and landed himself in jail. i don't at all understand dominican justice system, so i'm not even going to try to explain the little that i know. the main idea is: there was a fight, with knives, and someone died. did juan do it? apparently not. but he was in the fight and turned himself in when he found out.
it's not something anyone is really proud of. how could you be proud of that?
but he's there.
at least until the 25th when he'll go to court and a judge will decide how much longer he'll serve.
when i understand more about the process, i'll let you know.
but i've got to tell you about the prison.
i've always heard horror stories of developing world prisons... i imagined them to be something horrid, dirty and scary. i think, though, that what we should be scared of is the justice system and not the actual jail.
there were no metal detectors to pass through. no real examination. we even took food - that was examined with a fork. kind of. despite the lack of real security to enter, i wasn't going to be allowed in because of my bermuda shorts, and another lady because of her platform shoes.
i explained that i was a foreigner and unaware of the (silly) nuances of entering a prison in the dominican republic and the captain allowed me in. i passed through a door that was manned by the only guard i saw the entire time we were there. no bars. no heavy iron gates. nothing.
the beds are private and prisoners are able to have anything they want inside. in juan's cellblock there is a tv, dvd player and a small fridge. the little commisary sells straight razor blades - yes, straight razor blades - so that the prisoners can all give each other haircuts. i asked and was told that in the past few months, the fights that have broken out don't include the razors because the prisoners prefer shanks. go figure.
it's not a pleasant place. not at all somewhere i'd want to be locked up. but amalio and i both wonder what prisons are really doing. there is no "re-education," no help for the prisoners and little hope that these people are coming out any different than they went in.
we're hoping that juanito comes out and changes his life. stops drinking. maybe goes back to school. stays out of trouble. but we'll see.