We had a limited time in Uruguay since we had to book our flights back to the States in advance, so it was like a miracle to get authorization to enter a prison in short notice. This is the largest prison in Uruguay and has had many terrible things occur over the years such as riots, fires and over crowding. It was freezing the day we went but thank God the sun came out and warmed us all up. The men were so grateful and told us no one has ever come to visit them.
One man told us that he had been in 18 years for robbing someone with a plastic knife. He kept saying over and over, “It was plastic! I was never going to hurt anyone, I just needed food”. He said he had served his sentence and yet was still here because he was now forgotten about. There was a young man there who was from New York, he was just beginning an 8 year sentence for credit card fraud and was so devastated and crushed. He does not speak Spanish, and has no family in Uruguay fighting for him. He has so glad to hear English (everything we do is bilingual) and I had materiel in English to give him. The director of all the prisons in Uruguay was so impressed and grateful he told us he will get us into any prison we want when we return next year.
One man told me as we said goodbye to them all, “You took a piece of heaven and brought it down to earth for us”.