Photos: Uruguay prison turns inmates into entrepreneurs

Uruguay’s Punta de Rieles prison have inmates who work, study, learn a craft or start a business to have a better life and be less likely to return to crime. Of the 510 prisoners, who include thieves, assailants, kidnappers and killers, 382 work and 246 study — some do both. To get chosen for Punta de Rieles, prisoners have to have at least a six-month period of good behaviour elsewhere.

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST 11 Photos
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Former inmate Mauro Rodríguez works at the blacksmith shop at the Punta de Rieles prison in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Punta de Rieles project began in late 2012, with Parodi as deputy director, and he took over as head of the prison in 2015. The bet is that prisoners who work, study, learn a craft or start a business will have a better life and be less likely to return to crime. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Former inmate Mauro Rodríguez works at the blacksmith shop at the Punta de Rieles prison in Montevideo, Uruguay. The Punta de Rieles project began in late 2012, with Parodi as deputy director, and he took over as head of the prison in 2015. The bet is that prisoners who work, study, learn a craft or start a business will have a better life and be less likely to return to crime. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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Inmate Rolando Bustamante uses his mobile phone inside his cell at the Punta de Rieles prison. Bustamante is on the last two years of a 21-year sentence for assault and runs a cement block factory inside the prison. The workers, too, are inmates and the product will be sold beyond the walls, with part of the profits going to a sort of bank run by the prisoners themselves. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Inmate Rolando Bustamante uses his mobile phone inside his cell at the Punta de Rieles prison. Bustamante is on the last two years of a 21-year sentence for assault and runs a cement block factory inside the prison. The workers, too, are inmates and the product will be sold beyond the walls, with part of the profits going to a sort of bank run by the prisoners themselves. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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Inmate Federico Gonzalez (L), a musician also known as Kung-Fu OmBijam, performs at La Cretina pub during a Hip Hop festival in Montevideo. Gonzalez is allowed to leave the grounds to perform as part of a program designed to rehabilitate the inmates of the prison. Money to start businesses comes from inmates’ families or from a quasi-bank largely administered by inmates themselves. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Inmate Federico Gonzalez (L), a musician also known as Kung-Fu OmBijam, performs at La Cretina pub during a Hip Hop festival in Montevideo. Gonzalez is allowed to leave the grounds to perform as part of a program designed to rehabilitate the inmates of the prison. Money to start businesses comes from inmates’ families or from a quasi-bank largely administered by inmates themselves. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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Inmate Nelson Avantti, holds a cake at his bakery inside the Punta de Rieles prison. Of the 510 prisoners, who include thieves, assailants, kidnappers and killers, 382 work and 246 study — some do both. Only a few dozen have shunned those opportunities, and if two years pass, they will be transferred to a traditional prison. To get chosen for Punta de Rieles, prisoners have to have at least a six-month period of good behaviour elsewhere. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Inmate Nelson Avantti, holds a cake at his bakery inside the Punta de Rieles prison. Of the 510 prisoners, who include thieves, assailants, kidnappers and killers, 382 work and 246 study — some do both. Only a few dozen have shunned those opportunities, and if two years pass, they will be transferred to a traditional prison. To get chosen for Punta de Rieles, prisoners have to have at least a six-month period of good behaviour elsewhere. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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There are bakeries and barbershops, a candy store and carpenter shop along streets where inmates mix with prison officials and police. One inmate carries a begonia he bought from a prisoner-owned nursery to give to his mother when she visits. “It’s been demonstrated everywhere that confinement doesn’t change people. Here the idea is to play at reality,” Parodi said. “If something fails, it fails. Just like in the real world.” (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

There are bakeries and barbershops, a candy store and carpenter shop along streets where inmates mix with prison officials and police. One inmate carries a begonia he bought from a prisoner-owned nursery to give to his mother when she visits. “It’s been demonstrated everywhere that confinement doesn’t change people. Here the idea is to play at reality,” Parodi said. “If something fails, it fails. Just like in the real world.” (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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Inmates carry bread to their cells at the Punta de Rieles prison. The bakery is run by former inmates that come back to the prison almost daily and sometimes even sleep there, voluntarily this time. A bakery started by two prisoners have kept it going despite being released and now employ 50 to 70 people. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Inmates carry bread to their cells at the Punta de Rieles prison. The bakery is run by former inmates that come back to the prison almost daily and sometimes even sleep there, voluntarily this time. A bakery started by two prisoners have kept it going despite being released and now employ 50 to 70 people. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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A closed store that used to sell cleaning products is seen inside the prison. Ten percent of the profits goes to the fund for entrepreneurs, another 10% goes to the government for use of the facilities and 10% goes to an association of victims of crime. The rest goes into accounts for the inmates, though they can’t fully access it until they are released. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

A closed store that used to sell cleaning products is seen inside the prison. Ten percent of the profits goes to the fund for entrepreneurs, another 10% goes to the government for use of the facilities and 10% goes to an association of victims of crime. The rest goes into accounts for the inmates, though they can’t fully access it until they are released. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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Inmates pose for a photo inside the Punta de Rieles prison. Most prisons in Latin America “are warehousing places with very harsh conditions for inmates and they are very unsafe for both inmates and staff, and they basically are schools of crime,” said criminologist Yvon Dandurand, a fellow at the U.N.-affiliated International Center for Criminal Law Reform. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Inmates pose for a photo inside the Punta de Rieles prison. Most prisons in Latin America “are warehousing places with very harsh conditions for inmates and they are very unsafe for both inmates and staff, and they basically are schools of crime,” said criminologist Yvon Dandurand, a fellow at the U.N.-affiliated International Center for Criminal Law Reform. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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An inmate who runs one of the existing barbershops, cuts the hair of another inmates inside the prison. The prisoners enjoy significant freedom within their confinement: They can largely say what they want, form groups, unions or cooperatives, have a telephone, use the internet and communicate with the outside world, even own a dog. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

An inmate who runs one of the existing barbershops, cuts the hair of another inmates inside the prison. The prisoners enjoy significant freedom within their confinement: They can largely say what they want, form groups, unions or cooperatives, have a telephone, use the internet and communicate with the outside world, even own a dog. (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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Uruguayan prison reform activist Denisse Legrand sees Punta de Rieles as “an oasis” in a deeply troubled correctional system. Legrand, who directs a non-governmental organization that focuses on prisons, said that in addition to its educational and labour value, Punta de Rieles “is one of the prisons with the highest levels of security because the humane treatment and coexistence replace the violence characteristic of confinement.” (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Uruguayan prison reform activist Denisse Legrand sees Punta de Rieles as “an oasis” in a deeply troubled correctional system. Legrand, who directs a non-governmental organization that focuses on prisons, said that in addition to its educational and labour value, Punta de Rieles “is one of the prisons with the highest levels of security because the humane treatment and coexistence replace the violence characteristic of confinement.” (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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Juan Miguel Petit, who oversees prison affairs for Uruguay’s congress, said he knows dozens of prisons in the America and Europe and has never seen anything like Punta de Rieles. “The more we can manage to reproduce the life of a neighbourhood, the more we can foresee that the people who leave are going to behave in harmony with others.” (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

Juan Miguel Petit, who oversees prison affairs for Uruguay’s congress, said he knows dozens of prisons in the America and Europe and has never seen anything like Punta de Rieles. “The more we can manage to reproduce the life of a neighbourhood, the more we can foresee that the people who leave are going to behave in harmony with others.” (Matilde Campodonico / AP)

UPDATED ON JUN 13, 2019 12:36 PM IST
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