Panama’s Corrupt Prisons: As Seen By The Canadian Authorities, And Life On The Inside!

“Constant exposure to dangers will breed contempt for them.”- Seneca

Actual happiness always looks pretty squalid in comparison with the overcompensations for misery. And, of course, stability isn’t nearly so spectacular as instability. And being contented has none of the glamour of a good fight against misfortune, none of the picturesqueness of a struggle with temptation, or a fatal overthrow by passion or doubt. Happiness is never grand…#PrisonExperience

For those of us who are having a first-hand experiences of the horrors of panama prison system, there are so much to tell about what we go through daily to survive these unspeakable inhumane conditions behind the concrete walls of edifices scattered around like nazi’s concentration camp.

But, then, when I read of governments whose citizens are gradually being striped of what humanity remains of them as they do lengthy prison time for minor offences, while their government turned blind eyes to atrocities committed by the Panamanian authorities, then it baffled me more and it’s alarming that panama being a benefactor and recipient of many aids from these first world nations could get away with all these crimes perpetuated against vulnerable inmates.

In the past when the pavilion wasn’t overcrowded as it is now, foreign officials and consuls were allowed inside the pavilion, but since we have exceeded the numbers of inmates which the pavilion was built for and the condition has so deteriorated to a point that they won’t allow outsiders see what goes on inside the pavilion, the authorities won’t allow any non-panamanian access into the pavilion, only Panamanians are allowed access inside the pavilion; and mostly pastors and priests!

In the past, the spanish, Dutch, Canadian, British, and other Latin American countries had their embassies official make a tour of the pavilion to see for themselves the conditions of where their citizens are held up and locked up even as some awaits repatriation to their home countries. Then, it was a bit ok, but now; the state of the centre is an eye sore, such that, any donor-nation official who walks in and see the state of the pavilion, he/she wouldn’t leave without questioning whoever runs this death-hole; why the conditions?

But Panama being dubious, has always taken any foreign officials to the newly constructed prison which the ex president Martinelli inaugurated, but yet to function. During the campaign to the last election which hand-chosen man lost, new inmates were hauled to the newly constructed prison in front of television camera crews, but the lads were later sent packing and scattered to different pavilions as the centre is yet to be completed; political games!

One of the few foreign countries that had access to the pavilion recently wrote their report about the prison. Canada, like other developed countries happen to have their citizens locked up here and in the past did have access to the pavilion and right now, there’s a prominent Canadian citizen here, who awaits extradition to Canada and he is Dr. Arthur Porter.

Below is an excerpt from the report by the Canadian government on an old Canadian inmate, who is a first-time offender and has been incarcerated for five years now and still have over three more years to do. And he is sixty four years old.

The  old Canadian inmate who has been incarcerated same time with me and has been fighting to get repatriated to Canada as his health is deteriorating rapidly. Finally, it seems the Canadian government might be getting him home if all goes well. But then so much bureaucracy surrounds his repatriation despite his deteriorating health.

He allowed me to read through his report sent from the Canadian prison service.

The old lad is a first time offender, did what he did out of financial difficulties. Never had any criminal record. Prior to his arrest, he was a successful architect, who became financially destitute after a bitter divorce.

According to the report from the Canadian government about this old lad; he is of a very poor health. Suffers from hypertension, lung deterioration, heart arrhythmia and possible parkinson’s disease. Currently he is only being treated for hypertension.

Below are the words of the authorities in Canada!

“Information from Canadian government partners;

Foreign affairs have indicated that prison conditions in Panama are extremely poor. Corruption is rampant; guards are dishonest and accept bribes from prisoners on a regular basis. Food provided consists of rice, beans and soup {sic} (watery soup without meat, or chicken skin or bones soup, laden with fats)! Generally, friends and family provide food for the prisoners (this happens every fortnight, during visit and cops are cutting down on quantity of foods allowed in). Mr. —– (The Canadian Inmate) must pay for his basic necessities, such as toilet paper, blankets, mattress, clothes and soap as they are not provide by the prison.” {sic} (sometimes we have to buy water from the locals during water crisis, when water doesn’t run for days or weeks)

After reading his report, I’m left to wonder, why would the Canadian government allow him and other Canadians to languish and die slowly here. Well, same goes to us, the Dutch inmates here; we have the best working consul and they know our conditions but Den Haag has turned deaf ears and blind eyes to our conditions.

Well, after much wrangling back in The Netherlands, Den Haag has decided to look into our case once more, but decided to change the treaty with Panama; meaning, whatever sentences handed to us in panama, will be taken over as it is. Thus, we are meant to continue with our time in Holland, unlike the past where crimes committed here was changed into Dutch law; meaning, most get reduced time, and thus, free upon arrival as they had done more than the time that they would have gotten in Holland.

Now, I hope the new process will go faster and Den Haag will accept us back home, even to continue with our time and closer to our loved ones.

Meanwhile… goes on as it has always been

Mon, 1 Sep 2014

Another fortnight visit day, all up for the day as I brew me a cuppa tea; start my morning with steamy cup of green tea and cinnamon tea. Well, seems the day is getting muddled up very early, as my gay cellmate woke and took on me; complained of my classical music, that he can’t sleep.

Well, I told him, he can’t sleep, because he’s waiting for everyone to sleep so he can sneak into the toilet around 2am and snort his coke. On hearing that he shut his toothless mouth for good. I stay late most nights, even when I sleep early, I wake up to read or browse online; tweets and chat! And whatever goes on in the cell I know! I have seen him on many occasions got up and scanned around if anybody is checking on him, before walking into the toilet with pretence of emptying his ass that can’t hold no shit; lately I heard he’s having a thing with one white cubano, wish them good luck. My pharmacist-cellmate joined in the verbal brawl, but put him to where he belong; stingy miser!

Had a bit of my oatmeal and downed it with rest of my tea. Then off to the gym, leaving my sissy-cellmates to their next topic of gossip; #ME:-)

Started workouts with Biceps and switched to back with good intensity, used the early morning anger from the cell to boost my workout. One thing that has helped me through the years behind bars; I know where to channelled or redirect every negativity, sarcasm. After giving you my piece of mind, I head out to the weight room and unleash my own demons, doesn’t mean if anyone wanna go physical I won’t take him on. Fcuk it! I’m always ready and seriously prepared for such adventure. Hope nobody blames me, that’s what prison does to non-violent people; gets you prepare for fight and stand up for yourself. Well, in some cases which I have seen, it’s sheer stupidity that always get the lads into fight; unpaid debts (from buying dope and moonshine, or fags), bad words, spiralled war from outside, and being on the wrong side of the gangs thing! Guess, that’s why rehabilitation is needed to undo what prison has done, it’s pragmatically stupid to send one to prison to get him toughened and then have to rehabilitate him again to fit into the society. Sheer waste of human resources, taxpayers money and waste of time; rehabilitation should be incorporated in the prison and #Lockup process. While doing time, one is gradually been undone from what he was that brought him into the joint at the first place, instead of waiting after 8-10 years before starting to undo what those years had done to him. Freaking, wouldn’t work! Well, maybe for some it will, but for the many I have seen who kept going and coming, it hasn’t worked yet, maybe not now!

Bit edgy with the two lads in the cell who got into verbal brawl with me earlier today, but they know I’m more than cool with them; words exchanged is enough as it takes the weight off my shoulders.

Proper food from outside; every fortnight Monday and through Wednesday we seems to be well fed from fresh food. Sometimes, they aren’t really fresh as we have had food that came in from visit and it sent us lining by the toilet curtain, some had to sit right outside the toilet waiting when it comes.

But today’s was ok, we had shrimps, fishes and more fried chicken, beef and pork chops; all these will take us through Wednesday. Then, we are back to eating our own way. Despite so much food, I’m still selective and careful with whatever I’m eating; once had fried chicken that got me sick for one full week, wouldn’t want that to happen again.

Alongside our foods, clothes and other legal stuffs that were allowed in were also proper liquor from outside; how the latter got in, only God knows. Well corruption serves the good of both sides; the cops get paid while inmates get what they pay for, and that could be things to cause harm or for the pleasure of oneself.

Tue, 2 Sep 2014

Woke up early around 3am, and stayed up till 5ish, then back to sleep, only to wake up late around 9am. Thus, hitting gym a bit late today.

Made it to the gym after rushing through my morning rituals, and went on to have a bloody good chest and triceps workouts. Despite short on time, I was able to finished my workouts before the handballers came in.

Done and in, showered and had lunch. Don’t have protein to make shakes, thus, I stick to eating well after workouts and throughout the day; I tried to get any legumes that comes on the food cart, and also feast on the Tuna/Macroni mixed with onions and celery. Have to get my balanced diet from what we have here; #MixAndMatch 😉 for the optimum performance.

Wed, 3 Sep 2014

Got up early, but decided to sleep a bit more as I needed it; slept late last night or rather early this morning as I spent last night reading and browsing.

Finally up around 9ish, rushed through my morning rituals and ate couple of spoons from the cold oats with peanuts, spiced with cinnamon I made this morning.

The gym wasn’t full as on some days, but busy with the few inmates who made it out there. Went all out on shoulders, and abs. Some lads joined me and we had a great workout. Went outside for a quickie under the sun, my body need some doses of good sunlight. Did some good body-weight movement and stretching. After reading an article on @TIME on War on Sitting and Sitting being the new smoking; the dangers of continually living one’s life on one’s butt and knowing where we are, one is either sitting or lying down. I’ve decided to be more mobile and more on my feet, but then, my lower back hurts like hell. Tweeted the article and also copied many of my friends, as I know many of their jobs demands long hours of their butts glued to office chairs in front of terminals. And the same goes to many here; I can see how the love handles of my older cellmate has grown larger with extra folds, and all due to his sedentary lifestyle, and sitting all day to keep watch over his grocery business, but then, his body and health is deteriorating rapidly and all because he sits all day and doesn’t exercise or even walk around when the door is thrown open for an hour or two patio under the weather.

Back in the cell, water didn’t come this morning, but we had enough from yesterday which will take us through today and hopefully tomorrow.  Showered and wash my gym gears, the lads cooked part of what they brought in on Monday’s visit, hope they haven’t gone bad yet. But ate the rest of my cold oats.

Wanted to nap, but it seems the noise today in the pavilion has just gone up, reasons? Got no idea! But it’s quite noisy and the lads in my cell are having their buddies in and out; thus, no napping for me. Schat kept me busy as I couldn’t nap, she went swimming with the kids, and they had taken to cycling in an athletic club. I’m glad they are doing all they can to stay healthy, both with their diet and activities. But she does need more sleep, guess not easy now, as she juggling the kids and her work alone.

Like always, spent the rest of the day in the comfort of my bed, despite the heat in the cell, decided to stay in; reading and browsing. News of events around the world doesn’t look nice, as the world is on the brink of #WW3! Hope it will be averted as the consequences of another war will be devastating. I’m glad France cancelled delivering two war ships to Russia.

Also chat with my compatriot who is now back home with his family. Lad finding it difficult after years behind bars, going through the hustle of life afresh; the #PostPrisonLife! The prison system in panama doesn’t prepare its inmates for life after years behind bars, I guess that is why the numbers reoffenders in #Panama is very high. And same goes to foreigners doing lengthy prison time in Panama; they are faced witht the same predicament like the local inmates. Nobody prepare anybody for life outside and after prison time, many will go out and within few months are back to pick up from where they stopped before release.

To survive the odds on the outside, one has to prepare himself for life after prison time, something I doubt my compatriot was prepared for, as everything is coming to him as a shock. Hope he does what he did here to survive the time behind bars; adjust, adopt and improvised! That will be needed to survive the streets. Wish him well!

Many of us will go through the process if or when we walk out of here alive! But then, to pick up life where one left or was stopped on the outside, the preparation has to start from right here and now! And that’s what I’m doing! Hope my preparation helps when it’s all over.

Four inmates were hauled in on Tuesday, and two being very old inmates who are returning to life in the hole again. One is doing his third term here, guess he just love coming back; and he’s back to the cell he has always been, but I doubt if the lad on his bed will give up that bed for him. His former bed used to be one of the best in the pavilion. But as I heard, he has gotten a bed in the same cell, one of the younger lads left his bed for him; hierarchy in prison! With time and money, he will eventually get his old bed back from the lad. But life in the cell won’t be the same as it was in the past; then, there were mostly white Colombians, but now, the cell is all black Colombians and those two don’t really mix; like oil and water 😉

Spent the evening reading and brainstorming, time is at one’s disposal but then, prisoners and time are interwoven, the two goes hand in hand like horse and carriage! Time is needed for everything to take place and take shape, but then we are short of it, and also shut out from it!

Ultimately, it’s when time is done, then can one broadly smile, but then, another time awaits you; this time, the future and another time and era, life on the outside!

Busy in the pavilion, despite the heat, we are moving and dealing; the pavilion is a mobile market place, alive with whatever keeps it going! And without such movements,it will be a dead end; where life truly end. But for many men, this is where life begins and it begins aggressively teaching lessons that is vital for survival.

Thu, 4 Sep 2014

Last to hit bed, but the first to always rise, except when I decide to sleep back. And being out weekly headcount day, all will stashed soon. We don’t trust cops and they don’t give a damn about us either.

The rest of the lads got up as the whistle went off, the cops are here; seems our pavilion is the first to be counted. All stashed and I’m all dressed up to use the time outside for a quick bouts of workouts.

As others were still yawning from the early wake up, I drenched from sweating after quick burst of cardio; brisk-walking and sprints. Added other body-weight exercises and used the monkey bars for inverted rows and dips. Had enough time to do quite a lot, if I choose not to continue inside, what I did outside should be enough today. But, I’m heading to the gym after the headcount.

Herded in as the cops began calling names and cell by cell, they started with the B side of the pavilion, meaning more time for me. Continued with my workout, added push-ups and lunges.

Finally got to my turn, inside, the gym remain closed as others are still coming in. In my cell, my pharmacist-cellmate was cleaning, went in and picked up just what I will be using for today’s workout, not taking the whole box. Hitting arms #Biceps and #Triceps today. One of the early morning groups are also doing same. Started with a old member of my group, and another lad. We went through biceps routines and rounded up with those of triceps. Then abs, and I went on more lunges and finally stretched out the worked muscles before heading into my cell.

Inside, water came rushing, had to sit outside the cell after downing my cream (fortified cornmeal that came for breakfast), added oats, peanut butter and cinnamon. Wasn’t bad, filling and nutritious. Sat outside the cell until the lad was done with filling of water. In and had my shower!

Tried napping, less than an hour and was up, drizzled today, but nothing much and we ain’t worried as we have enough water today.

Ran out of toilet paper and the grocer in my cell doesn’t have; it’s freakin becoming like Venezuela where toilet paper is a luxury, expensive more than gas, had to get one from another grocer, whose stock was dwindling rapidly. We are eating a lot and also shitting too much ;-). Pictures of prisoners in the past are always of gaunt looking men, but not here; we are fed on half-cooked rice, beans and fat-laden soup or fatty meats; chicken skins, pork skin, pork tails, pork feet, minced meat (who knows what they mixed into it), and anything that is fat. Thus, those feasting on them are growing larger waistlines. And those who can afford the luxuries provided through corruption are also feasting on food as they believe eating is the only means of surviving time here. One will be amazed to see some inmates growing protruding beer belly and inmates battling with weight loss. The mental and physical conditions here are enough to strip off all the fats and even life from any sane person. But, left with nothing to do, other than sleep, eat, shit, gossip, gamble, watch porn and occasionally put into action what has been watched, what else is become of us. And majority spent most of their day on their butt, sitting all day; then the result, growing waistlines!

Spent the day in the cell, only went out for ice twice, as the little rainfall couldn’t do anything to relieve us of the grilling heat. Usually, when it rains, I rarely get ice, but not now, still blazingly hot.

Made pancakes as I finally got some eggs yesterday, shared with the rest of the cell except my pharmacist-cellmate, he’s on his own, and that’s how it should be; lad doesn’t share nothing with others. Eggs, hasn’t been in for a very long time, and I don’t see it coming in, wondering what war is being fought on the fron line for control of the business. Eggs, the cheapest source of protein in the pavilion, many somebody wants to stop it from coming in. Pray not!

The lads had their distilling equipment set up after I finished with the pancakes. Been a while they distilled, I know they will be working till late.

And that’s what they did as I’m writing this by 01:32:09 of Fri, 5 Sep 2014!

Up to use the loo, they had finished distilling two tanks of #Moonshine mashes into fine, pure but potent and lethal liquor which their clients were already buying as it was coming out from the spout of the copper tube; somebody gotta stay high or drunk to do his time.

I’m up to use the loo and will be getting back online for a brief chat with schat as she up and about now.

Fri, 5 Sep 2014

#TGIF! Woke up around 1am, stayed up for a brief chat, but signal was bad! Made me a cold chocolate-milk drink, blasted off few tweets and messages to schat and my kids before returning to bed; where I couldn’t sleep as my mind went walkabouts. Don’t wanna miss workout later today, finally forced myself to sleep.

Woke up around 8:30am, waited for the lads to round up with all they were doing before I get on with my morning’s rituals.

Made it to the gym, being my last day of workout for the week. Had a total all-body workout experience, which is what I need to take me through weekend. Enough rest till Monday when I’m back to same routine. Glad I have books and internet to keep me very busy.

Done and in, water isn’t much, but we managed to survive each day with whatever we have, my little gallons which I sent upstairs, somebody has tampered with some of them. My mate who lives on top of our cell is supposed to watch over them, but he careless about anything here. Should find a way to have them well secured or they will all be nicked. This is prison and no monastery, well not everyone know that, the so-called pastors here will try to convince the lads that they are in heaven, denying the reality of where they are.

Spent the day inside my cell and most on my bed, doing what I do best; reading, listening to music, tweeting and browsing. Such a life is good for me as it keeps me away from prying eyes and sarcasm and trouble which seems to be lurking and lying in wait.

Sat, 6 Sep 2014

My son’s 8th Birthday today, it’s gonna by busy as schat is inviting his friends from school and church to the house. Guess, also messy, pray her enough strength to handle the kids 😉

Woke up late, as I’m not doing the general cleaning as there’s no water enough to get the cell washed.

Wanted to just lie back but the door to patio was thrown open from 9am – 12 noon, couldn’t resist not going out, up and hurried through my rituals and dressed up for an impromptu round of a Saturday’s workout outside.

Joined the rest of the lads outside, started with brisk-walking to get my muscles warm and primed and ready for the next phase of what I will be doing; did some lapse round the field, stretched, body-weight, rows, dips and fnally used two dumbbells, privately owned by an inmate and hit some good shoulders workout. Sunbathd, enjoyed the weather and enjoyed this impromptu exercise routine; wasn’t planned, but I’m always ready to adopt, adapt and use every open windows of opportunities.

Money had to be contributed for the cops and wardens; thus we are literally paying to get patio once in a week; that’s what corruption does. One has to pay for everything, even when an inmate is sick, he either pays to be taken to the unstaffed clinic or die trying to to get there through the right channel or even die while waiting to be taken. Corruptions favours some and kills others. Gave a share of mine; a dollar! Hope they do that next week! Sometimes corruption is good, but other times, you just don’t want to know the evils its wrought on people; knives, guns and all sorts of harmful weapons are brought in through corrupt officials.

No water all day and not even a drop of rain, but we all have our reserves to fall on in a time as this, got enough to shower and wash my gym clothes.

Why Do Inmate Keep Falling?

Another inmate fell, and this time from a much higher height than where cayman fell to his death. The lad fell from the top of the cell where he lives. He and his mates been drinking all evening and sitting on the edge on top of the cell. Heard our alarm system went off, then, I know something terrible has happened. There are so many old inmates here, each time our alarm goes off, one is left to wonder if it’s one of them, but in most cases, it’s the younger inmates after drinking.

His pulse was very low, pupils dilated, heartbeat very faint, bleeding from his head, lost consciousness. Doc, did what he could do, had a neck guard to keep him immobilised. Cops finally came, but always late, despite we seeing two cops behind the pavilion checking on routers and they heard our alarm; clanking of metals as we hit on the metal door to get their attention. They casually walked back to their quaters. Glad they came and pick the lad, was stained with his blood as I helped carried him out. We had use board from the gym to carry him out. Once the cops took him out, they will rush him to the hospital as they won’t want another inmate dying in their hands.

He was promptly taken to the hospital, where we learned he will be fine. Pray he will be truly fine as he banged his head during the fall.

It’s very stupid that these lads don’t learn from the mistakes of others; there has been many accidents from drinking on top of the cells. Many had fallen, some in the passage and into the rusted metals upstairs, ending up with scars on their legs. And one had a serious infection, had to be taken out for injection against tetanus and went several times to the clinic.

Went to bed, thinking of the lad and also of the dead Caymanian inmate, praying that this young lad won’t become another dead inmate. Pray he survives!

Sun, 7 Sep 2014

Woke up and about my day, cooking beans today, went over to the compatriot of the fallen lad and inquired of his condition; lad said, he will be fine, hope fine enough to scare off drinking. This compatriot of his was crying last night, as they tend to know each other back home in their little village in Colombia.

The talk of the young lad was all over the pavilion, but it wouldn’t stop inmates from sitting upstairs and drink till they drop; as for me, not making moonshine or my wine for some time. Don’t even have enough dough to invest in such, gotta wait a while. Most of my true clients who were into classic drinking are gone, the ones here are poor lads who prefer stronger liquors to my soft and weaker wine 😉

Moreover, the gates of corruption seems to be open wide as proper liquor are flooding in from the streets, but then expensive, though the lads always get around to buying a litre which will serve its purpose; get them drunk enough to start acting stupidly and maybe fall from high altitude 😉

Many old timers are leaving; either upon completion of their time or on repatriation, and new faces are hauled in weekly and some old faces are returning to continue from where they stopped. What a life, when your career is crime! Heard they call such “Career-Criminal”, their occupation is crime and such they are reoffenders; always prone to commit crime and be rearrested and returned to the slammer for another round of lengthy time. Within the locals, I have seen some in my class who had been coming in and out since the age of 14 years, and they are still doing same thing.

Well, if I’m not good in one profession, fuck, it’s better I ditch it and get on something else ;-), well not these lads, it’s either what they have been doing or nothing else and the authorities aren’t ready to provide a way out of crime for these one. Any wise one, will know, it’s a battle of self-redemption.

The weekend will soon be over, another inmate in the hospital hanging to what life is left of him, while life goes on for the rest of us as it has always been. How soon we forget, such shallow minded fellows we are, once you are down and out, you are forgotten; life seems to be nothing other than live it the moment you have it. Probably, it’s what prison does to people, toughened and hardened  them up, provide the extra tough skin to blunt out all humanity and its feelings.

They say “Prison life blunts one’s mind from every sensations”, but it also sharpens one’s survival instinct to survive all conditions of life. And makes one stronger both in will and deed.

Disappointment to a noble soul is what cold water is to burning metal; it strengthens, tempers, and intensifies, but never destroys it.

The pain passes, but the beauty remains. – Pierre Auguste Renoir

“I am the master of my fate, I am the captain of my soul.” – Ernest Henley, #Invictus

#PrisonExperience #PrisonCurious #Panama #PrisonViolence #Prisoners #PrisonBreak #Jail #Justitie #Nederland #HIIT #Hardcore #DIY #Fitness #MentalHealth #PrisonHealth #Inmates #PrisonReform #Canada #ArthurPorter #Toronto #Holland #WOTS #Wordpress #BehindBars #Moonshine #Cayman #DrugWar #PTY


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