Cocaine, Politicians and Wives: Inside the World’s Most Bizarre Prison
"It’s hard to escape from Bolivia’s San Pedro Prison; Sneaking in is easier.
In Bolivia, breaking out of prison is hard. Sneaking in is pretty easy, especially if it’s San Pedro Prison, the most bizarre correctional facility in the world.
In this gaspingly high prison, outside Bolivia’s capital La Paz and 11,500 feet up in the Andes, more than 2,400 male prisoners work as pastors, food vendors, tour guides, prostitutes, barbers, carpenters, shoe-shiners and cocaine manufacturers. One even ran for vice-president of Bolivia from inside the prison’s walls. The 50 or so guards monitor the inmates from outside the prison; their only job is to see that no one escapes. Inside, however, the prisoners run the joint.
In 2009, I was a young backpacker in Bolivia looking for adventure. I had first learned of the prison way back in 2005 from a Lonely Planet guidebook. One former British prisoner there, Thomas McFadden, had achieved no small amount of notoriety by giving tours of the place to wide-eyed backpackers. He was doing time for drug smuggling, and he didn’t think prison should limit his business opportunities...