Honduras’ Prison Free Markets

June 21, 2012 in Daily Bulletin, Signature

In the prisons of Honduras, the administrators have given up on creating a system of law and order. Instead they have staked out their perimeters along the outskirts of the institution and let activity go unregulated within. This has led to the rise of prison-economies. Some truly remarkable highlights include:

  • In a prison that is mimicked throughout the country there is a yellow “line of death” that separates the inner sanctum of the prisoners from those of the officers. The inmates understand that if they cross the line, the police officers will shoot them. The police officers, on the other hand, rarely cross the line onto the inmate’s side.
  • Within the ‘prison’ there exist a free market where it’s possible to buy consumer electronics and even prostitutes. Some fascinating examples include:
    • New inmates have to choose which living space they can afford. The worst goes for about $50, while the best places can cost as much as $750.
    • For about $3.50 inmates can have their floors cleaned.
    • There are mechanics who can repair air conditioners.
    • One inmate opened a restaurant business with laminated menus that advertise double hamburgers. He has employed two waiters and intends to sell his business once he is released.
    • Prostitutes from the free world are also available for the night.
  • The profits from the various enterprises are distributed among the workers, stall owners, and prisoner administrators.
  • Administrators say that all of this is necessary. The $6,000 that they make per month is used to buy food or medical services. If they were limited to the state’s budget for food (60 cents a day) the inmates would all starve.
  • Journalists gain access to the prison not through the administrators, but with permission from the head inmate who provided eight other prisoners as body guards.

To read the rest of what is a truly fascinating article, and to find out why the prisoners have keys to their own cells, the safety record of these prisons, the issue of overcrowding, the prospects for reform, the role of corruption, some of the other products available, the people who move in and out of the prisons at will, what would happen in a fire, why an inmate was beheaded, the role that ‘elections’ play in these societies, a time when the prisoners took over, what administrators have to say, and what the UN has to say, click here.

Source: Reuters

Via: Marginal Revolution