In January 2016, for the first time a high level governmental commission entered an infamous prison in Colombia to investigate whether the abysmal conditions merit its closure as mandated by the court. The prison, known informally as La Tramacua, was built in 2000 with the US Federal Bureau of Prisons and USAID funds, as part of a plan to restructure Colombia’s prisons.
The prison has temperatures that regularly climb over 100 degrees, with water available for only ten or twenty minutes each day, and then only on the facility’s first floor. There are 1,448 prisoners that must fight over the precious resource in an attempt to survive the horrors of La Tramacua.
Medical attention is often denied, ventilation is non-existent, raw sewage flows through the kitchen, and the UN commission on human rights has documented fecal contamination in the food given to prisoners. Beatings and torture have been documented. Prisoners who deemed to step out of line are thrown into cells known as Villa Mosquito, which are infested with insects. These conditions have led to at least three suicides since 2014.
Lazos de Dignidad, an organization of Colombian human rights lawyers, is attempting to help prisoners of La Tramacua. They consider it shameful that in a country in which peace proceedings are currently underway, more than 1,000 people are held in torturous conditions due to the government’s obstinacy. It is imperative that La Tramacua is closed as a symbolic rejection of the prison industrial complex.
Source: John Ocampo, “The Guantanamo of Colombia: Pressure Mounts to Shut Down Notorious US-Funded Prison,” Upside Down World, January 29, 2016,
Student Researcher: Harrison Hartman (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)