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Women survivors of the massacre in the Honduras women's prison. Mujeres sobrevivientes de la masacre en el penal de mujeres de Honduras.

InSide the Story: How We Investigated Honduras’ Women’s Prison Massacre

Inside of the Tale: How We Investigated Honduras&#8217 Ladies&#8217s Jail Massacre

On August 16, 2023, Perception Criminal offense posted an investigation into Honduras&#8217 National Women’s Penitentiary for Social Adaptation (Penitenciaría Nacional Femenina de Adaptación Social &#8211 PNFAS), which was the scene of just one of the deadliest massacres at any time recorded in a female jail in Latin The us. The workforce frequented the prison for a week in April 2023 and interviewed dozens of inmates, together with ladies joined to the Barrio 18 and Mara Salvatrucha (MS13) gangs.

In a new Twitter House, two of our researchers reviewed the exploration methodology, their impressions of the PNFAS, and how they processed the news right after discovering of the massacre. Under is an edited transcript of the dialogue.

Listen to the complete dialogue listed here and verify out the PNFAS investigation in this article.

María Fernanda Ramírez (MFR): What was the first plan for this investigation, and why did you make your mind up it was vital to examine the matter?

Victoria Dittmar (VD): We decided to look into the PNFAS for the reason that of the massacre that had transpired there 3 several years before, in Might 2020. It was a really violent episode that prompted trauma between the ladies held there, as very well as the administrative workers.

When this very first massacre occurred, it seemed that the authorities have been taken by shock, as if this had been a thing unprecedented. In point, at the time, the Penitentiary Institute’s spokeswoman instructed us that violence was not regular, that females prisoners are a passive population, and that it was not frequent for a little something like this to happen in a women of all ages&#8217s prison. 

And, indeed, massacres in women&#8217s prisons hadn’t been common. But what the authorities didn’t point out was the everyday violence and rigidity that was setting up up in the prison, specifically amongst opposing gangs — precisely, the Barrio 18 and MS13.  

SEE ALSO: Massacre in Honduran Women’s Prison: A Tragedy Foretold

So, our major aim was to recognize how these gang dynamics performed out inside the jail, what role violence performed, how gang policies affected this place, and how power relations were being formed there.

When the 2nd massacre occurred, in June 2023, we had previously gotten deep into the investigation, so we experienced to improve the concentration. We shifted to detailing how the situations within the prison laid the groundwork for one more episode of excessive violence.

MFR: This investigation depended totally on your attaining access to the jail. How did you do that? What was the position of the authorities, and how did the gangs respond to your presence?

VD: The most tricky part of negotiating our access was the bureaucratic approach. Our entry experienced to be approved by several officials from the Stability Ministry and the Nationwide Penitentiary Institute (Instituto Nacional Penitenciario). The process lasted all around 6 months.

When we arrived at the prison, entry was less complicated. The authorities were open to connecting us with the gals prisoners and asking the coordinators of each gang for authorization to converse with us.

But the weekend prior to our check out, there ended up several violent episodes linked to gangs in male prisons. Thus, there was a excellent offer of distrust on the part of the gals from Barrio 18, and the gang’s coordinator refused to obtain us. Her reaction was literally, &#8220We don&#8217t chat to journalists.&#8221 The authorities couldn’t do significantly.

In distinction, the girls connected to the MS13 were being constantly open up, though we nonetheless required permission from the gang coordinator. We only said to the authorities, &#8220Now we would like to discuss to the girls in Module 1,” in which the gals connected to MS13 have been. They took us there, and we were being equipped to discuss to the coordinator.

The authorities authorized us to enter the module but stayed exterior. Their look at was that it was not dangerous for us to be in there, locked up.

In the direction of the close of the week, we have been ready to strategy Barrio 18, but only at Casa Cuna, the maternity module. We nevertheless had to communicate to the coordinator — who was a member of the gang — and talk to her if she agreed. When she agreed, the authorities once more allow us into the module, but they remained outside the house.

MFR: What were your impressions of the jail when you entered? What struck you most?

VD: What struck me is that the PNFAS was a contradictory jail. It&#8217s not maximum stability, so it&#8217s not designed for that goal. It was fairly open in that perception.

Having said that, adhering to the first massacre and the COVID-19 pandemic, the authorities had forbidden all females to leave their modules. For instance, they could not go out to the central courtyard, besides for a single hour in the early morning when they had been authorized to exercise. But the rest of the day they had been completely locked up. Nor could they go to the professional medical center unaccompanied.

But what didn&#8217t make feeling was that selected ladies — who, we figured out from interviews and observation, belonged to Barrio 18 — could wander freely via the corridors, could collect in sure places, or approach the different modules.

The day we visited Casa Cuna, for instance, there was a group of girls linked to Barrio 18 who did not stop watching us and building rounds around the room where by we had been conducting the interviews.  

Meanwhile, it was clear that the ladies involved with the MS13 lived in fear. They are a minority in the prison and were being fairly isolated from the rest of the populace. They explained to us that they felt insecure in the face of threats from the Barrio 18. 

The metaphor of a time bomb about to explode, which we used in the investigation we published about the massacre, comes from them. It was a phrase they repeated constantly in interviews.

MFR: Convey to us about Casa Cuna. How do the roles of the girls in gangs distinction with their position as mothers?

VD: There have been about 20 young children in detention with their moms when we visited the PNFAS. Young children can continue to be in Casa Cuna right until they are 4 decades old. Immediately after that, they have to go with kinfolk, or they are taken in by the condition. Most of the women in Casa Cuna were related with Barrio 18.

The challenge of motherhood in the PNFAS is complex and can be analyzed from several views.

For case in point, we noticed that the ladies of Barrio 18 arranged them selves to get treatment of all the small children together. Both equally energetic gang members and retired gang users, or females who at some stage were being joined to the gang, were being involved. They supported each individual other in the get the job done of treatment and upbringing.

On the other hand, there had been also women from the standard population in Casa Cuna, who did not believe in the gang and tried to hold their children absent from them. 

So we could see both sides: On the a single hand, there was a neighborhood of nurturing, but on the other, worry also persisted.

Throughout the initially massacre of 2020, some of the violence touched Casa Cuna. It isn’t an oasis from the dynamics of the jail. Youngsters are also exposed to violence.

They also face consistent confinement. Just as their mothers are not allowed to go away the modules, the little ones are not allowed to go out both — apart from for that 1 hour of recreation each day.

MFR: What transpires when these minors attain the age when they have to depart the jail?

VD: I can response that with the illustration of one of the gals we interviewed at Casa Cuna. She has been with the Barrio 18 her total lifetime, and her complete relatives is connected to the gang. She states she has retired, but when her son turns 4 decades previous, he will have to leave the PNFAS and will be positioned in the treatment of her family members. In other terms, it&#8217s quite very likely that he’ll expand up in the same surroundings that she grew up in and will be vulnerable to falling into the identical criminal constructions she did.

MFR: What was your perception of the PNFAS authorities? 

VD: I assume there are two views to their part.

To start with, there are the people who work each day in the prison, who have a complete occupation within just the jail system. Like all those who get the job done in the lawful, social operate, human sources, health and fitness, or administrative regions. These folks ended up quite open in talking about the stress inside the prison and the rivalries between gangs. It was extra obvious to them when there was a trouble concerning inmates. 

SEE ALSO: Stability Issues Persist Inspite of Indictments for Honduras Prison Massacre

In simple fact, a number of of these persons also outlined to us that they feared that the violence in the male prisons would spread to the PNFAS. In other words and phrases, they in no way minimized the trouble.

Then there is the other perspective of the administration staff members, who are the ultimate conclusion makers. In our perspective, this group of persons appeared to underestimate the prospective for violence within just the prison and preserve an evasive narrative. 

MFR: How did you experience as a researcher when the next massacre transpired? 

VD: It was horrible. We felt a combination of disappointment, anger, and irritation. It was a traumatic occasion, naturally, for the total of Honduran modern society, and also for us.

When the function occurred, there was a good deal of misinformation and verified data took a very long time to be released, like the identification of the victims. 

It was rather a shock for us to study the info, in particular knowing that several of the women of all ages experienced been really vocal about their problems. They experienced questioned the authorities to defend them. 

At minimum five of the girls we experienced interviewed died that day.

This transcript was edited for duration and clarity.

Highlighted impression: Girls survivors in the Honduras females&#8217s jail. Credit: Instituto Nacional Penitenciario

The post Within the Tale: How We Investigated Honduras&#8217 Ladies&#8217s Jail Massacre appeared very first on Perception Criminal offense.