Honduran prisons rank among the worst in the world. They’re overcrowded (26 Honduran prisons and jails designed for 5,500 inmates hold over 13,000 prisoners), many prisoners languish in limbo awaiting trial, and they are run by armed gangs who are in de facto control of the detention facilities. In 2003, a fight between rival gang members at La Porvenir prison outside Tegucigalpa led to a shootout and riot that left close to 100 prisoners dead. After researching rough areas around the world, photojournalist Dan McCabe decided to go to Honduras for two weeks in April 2007, documenting conditions in the country’s prisons and jails. McCabe had to negotiate and bribe not only the guards, but the prisoners as well to get in. “Full-on gangs are running the inside of those prisons,” McCabe says. “They have fully automatic weapons hidden in their cells.”
Comprising 70 to 80 percent of the prison populations, gang members greatly outnumber the guards, who mostly stay on the exterior of the fences and control the perimeter with snipers. “There were a lot of places I couldn’t go because the guards couldn’t get permission from the inmates themselves,” McCabe says. The two biggest gangs in Honduras—MS-13 and the 18th Street Gang—started in Los Angeles in the 1970s. Photographs from Dan McCabe’s “Honduras: Prison” series will be exhibited at KMOCA, 103 Abeel Street, Kingston, April 5 through April 26. An opening reception will be held on Saturday, April 5, from 5 to 7pm. Portfolio: www.danielmccabe.com. www.kmoca.org.