Did The Tour May 2010 - Not A Bad Thing
I was torn but decided to check out San Pedro prison. It was an eye opening experience. I can't imagine being a child in that kind of environment.
My guide told me that the money I paid for the tour went towards bribing the guards, paying the outside contact and for hygiene products and building materials for the residence of his sector. His "tip" and the "tip" for the 3 body guards was a separate fee, which I am assuming they have to give part of to the sector. However people do lie so how much of the money if any helped the community I don't know.
I agree with the author of this article that these tours are not the best thing but taking a critical passive approach is not the answer either. If I had not done the tour I would have no idea that people actually live the way these people do, it is one thing to read about it but to see it can inspire people to do good things. I wonder has the author contacted Brad Pitt's production company and asked them if they are donating part of the proceeds of the movie to the kids and or inmates? It is entirely possible that they plan to do so and if not perhaps a gentle suggestion would prompt them to do so. Has the author contacted the writer of the book and his subject to see if they have donated any money? If they haven't it would be great publicity for them to do so and they come off looking like awesome humanitarians so it would be in their best interests to make a very public donation.
So to sooth my wasp conscience over going in to the prison I made a donation; Save the Children is involved in the San Pedro prison with a few different programs for both the children and their parents. I donated the same amount of money that I paid to get into the prison. 90% of all donations go towards the programs, not just to the kids of San Pedro but to kids of other incarcerated parents and underprivileged kids in general. They don't just give them money they teach them skills which I think is very important. If I had not gone into the prison I would not have made this donation. Here is a link to the info on the program http://www.savethechildren.org/countries/latin-america-caribbean/bolivia/bolivia-success-story.html
To the author of this article, get off your butt and contribute to a solution, it is more productive than criticizing. Odds are good that people will not stop going to the prison so find a way to use it to help those that need it.
Because of my visit I saw any number of ways that these folks could be helped in the short and long term but it needs to be done by someone living in the area. A couple of ideas and I am sure if people think on it they can come up with more.
Donated used kids clothing from the people of La Paz (someone could set up a clothing drop place and take the donations into the prison)
Internships/job training for the non incarcerated parent through local businesses so they can afford a place to live and can move out of the prison
I would suggest organizing food and hygiene product donations but I fear that those items may be taken away and sold.
Again there are any number of ways to help these folks and I encourage everyone to do so if you can. And by that I mean if you can afford to take the tour you can afford to make a donation :-)