HomeNewsAnalysisAnimation Series Highlights Life in Venezuela Prisons
ANALYSIS

Animation Series Highlights Life in Venezuela Prisons

PRISONS / 3 SEP 2012 BY ELYSSA PACHICO EN

A seven episode animated series on Youtube offers an inside look at the violence and intrigue inside a Venezuelan prison.

The series, "Jail or Hell," was created and produced by Luidig Ochoa, a former inmate at Tocoron penitentiary some 100 kilometers outside of Caracas. After he was released from prison, Ochoa worked at several TV stations and the Ministry of Culture, before reportedly quitting to devote himself full time to his animation project.

The seven episodes, each between six to 10 minutes long, follow the story of a prison boss (or "pran") who is driven out of power by a group of rivals.

Each episode depicts different facets of prison life. The inmates are shown wearing civilian clothing or are shirtless, living in primitive facilities with cockroaches and graffiti decorating the walls. Knife battles and gun fights are a frequent occurrence.

The pranes are depicted as enjoying privileges far above those available to the ordinary inmates, including private rooms decorated with pornography (convenient for conjugal visits), Blackberry cell phones, and the fear and respect of those around them.

According to watchdog group the Venezuela Prison Observatory, 506 people were killed in Venezuela's prisons last year, while at least 304 inmates have died during the first half of 2012. The government only controls six out of Venezuela's 36 prisons, the NGO has said.

InSight Crime Analysis

"Jail or Hell" doesn't do much to humanize depictions of inmates. Tellingly, many of the characters are drawn with red, slitted eyes, as though to estrange the characters from the audience. The depiction of women in the series -- all tight clothes and exaggerated curves -- draws on the cheesiest anime cliches.

Nevertheless the series is an intriguing depiction of how authority in the prison system works. The National Guard are only shown entering the prison grounds in order to do head counts. While gun battles rage inside the prison walls, the guards stand on a hill outside and observe. The series never bothers to show the clean up of the dozens of dead bodies that pile up, all of them oozing puddles of blood.

There are only a few moments that hint at life outside the prison system. At one point, an inmate's interior monologue notes that he has been held in pre-trial detention for five months and is still waiting to hear back from the Ministry of Justice. This misuse of pre-trial detention is one reason why Venezuela's prisons are so overcrowded and deadly.

In the first episode (watch below), one character explains in a flashback that he was imprisoned for killing the son of a powerful political authority with his taxi. It is one of the few times that the series makes references to some of the broader injustices in Venezuelan society that have helped make the prison system what it is today.

But the show's real value may come from how willing it is to show prison violence as random and ready to erupt at any time. One character in the second episode is gunned down after he is mistaken for another inmate, suspected of spying on a pran who was having wild, graphic sex with a female visitor. Others are killed for less random reasons, usually involving rivalries between the prison bosses. The implicit message seems to be that if "Prison or Hell" is so willing to show life as disposable and cheap, it may simply be reflecting society's overall view of the populations most vulnerable to ending up in these brink and mortar infernos.

share icon icon icon

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

What are your thoughts? Click here to send InSight Crime your comments.

We encourage readers to copy and distribute our work for non-commercial purposes, with attribution to InSight Crime in the byline and links to the original at both the top and bottom of the article. Check the Creative Commons website for more details of how to share our work, and please send us an email if you use an article.

Was this content helpful?

We want to sustain Latin America’s largest organized crime database, but in order to do so, we need resources.

DONATE

Related Content

COLOMBIA / 2 AUG 2018

A recent massacre that left eight people dead near the Colombia-Venezuela border shows how much the conflict has intensified between…

ELN / 19 OCT 2018

The recent massacre of seven people in one of Venezuela’s mining regions may confirm that the Colombia guerrilla group ELN…

VENEZUELA / 8 AUG 2012

In a particularly tense election year for Venezuela, there are new fears that the militant collectives in Caracas' 23 de…

About InSight Crime

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution Met With Uproar

6 MAY 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime launched its latest investigation, Venezuela’s Cocaine Revolution¸ accompanied by a virtual panel on its findings. The takeaways from this three-year effort, including the fact that Venezuela…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela Drug Trafficking Investigation and InDepth Gender Coverage

29 APR 2022

On May 4, InSight Crime will be publishing The Cocaine Revolution in Venezuela, a groundbreaking investigation into how the Venezuelan government regulates the cocaine trade in the country. An accompanying event,…

THE ORGANIZATION

InDepth Coverage of Juan Orlando Hernández

22 APR 2022

Ever since Juan Orlando Hernández was elected president of Honduras in 2014, InSight Crime has provided coverage of every twist and turn during his rollercoaster time in office, amid growing…

THE ORGANIZATION

Venezuela's Cocaine Revolution

15 APR 2022

On May 4th, InSight Crime will publish a groundbreaking investigation on drug trafficking in Venezuela. A product of three years of field research across the country, the study uncovers cocaine production in…

LA ORGANIZACIÓN

Widespread Coverage of InSight Crime MS13 Investigation

8 APR 2022

In a joint investigation with La Prensa Gráfica, InSight Crime recently revealed that four of the MS13’s foremost leaders had been quietly released from…