Creating a community inside prison

Prison culture looks to find a way to connect to the world outside the bars. One meaning of what a prisoner is, is a normal everyday person who was once part of our world’s society (in other words, free) that did something or was caught in an occurrence that broke the law, and sentenced them to live in a place that deprives them of certain freedoms, and freedom itself.

Prisons often aren’t what we imagine them to be based on what the law says. Though they are detention centers for those who have wronged against the law, there is corruption within the system. What is really happening is there are “a variety of people (prisoners, guards, and families) all fighting for their own advantage and co-operating with or manipulating each other to make the most of a difficult environment.” (Thompson) Not only prisoners but guards too, will go find a way around the rules and use it to their advantage. Anything that can make the guards’ and prisoners’ lives a little easier and gain them some sort of profit by the end of the day will occur. This is similar to the world outside of prison, where people work in jobs to gain money for themselves and their families. They will think about things in their power that they can accomplish in order to gain an edge or an advantage over the competition to gain more money. In prison, specifically the prison near La Paz, Bolivia, in this article; guards break the rules and find a way to sell prisoners drugs, food, and even mobile phones through various connections and their families. If the inmates don’t put the goods to use, the goods are sold for money or traded for other goods throughout the prison, either way, benefiting the distributing inmate. The reason why they do this is because importing goods, I assume, is probably one of the more profitable trades within prison.

Thinking from an anthropological point of view, I wouldn’t even consider these people prisoners, rather people who live in prison. I find that these people are just trying to live the lives they did outside prison, inside, because they are just trying to get a sense of what they used to know, through building community and a lifestyle. One man said from prison, “We can’t leave, so the world has to come to us.” (Thompson)


Thompson, David. (2012, Oct 25). Inside connections: building networks and communities behind bars in Bolivia. [Web log post] Retrieved from