The current economic misery in Venezuela, mixed with violence and crime deeply rooted in society, is accentuated inside so-called "preventive detention centers." Thousands of women waiting for trial are separated from their families and children for potentially many years.
"This is not helping anyone. When we get out of here [the jail], if we do, we will be worse people than we were before prison," said Yorkelis, aged just 21. She calls "Chinatown," a one-cell-only prison overcrowded with 60 women, her home. Two years ago she was accused of drug possession and has been waiting for trail ever since.
Pre-trial detention is particularly brutal. They are dark, hot, overcrowded and claustrophobic. Prisoners have no food, water, or medical attention. Some suffer from psychological disorders, and many are affected by heavy drug addiction. The facilities do not possess the capacity to separate women from men, nor do they allow for a separation between low-level offenders and hardened criminals.
The cause for imprisonment is not limited to robbery and drugs, but also extends to the political sphere. For example, the "law against hate", which passed in January 2018, forbids any protest against the government and has put numerous women behind bars. How many more people will be affected by this law? How do prisoners—some of them mothers—continue their lives after release and reunite with their families? And what do their conditions tell us about the state of the Venezuelan society?