From June to August 2014, Colectivo Sustento with Fénix & Ilusiones went on tour, and ran 7 theatre and reflection days in 3 juvenile prisons in Santiago. Each day we performed “Modecate“, ran theatre games and ended with an open forum-debate with the young people. Emotive, provocative, deeply reflective and FUN, these 7 days filled us with hope for the future of our work with young people.

“Juvenile prisons should not exist” was the feeling that was reinforced by our experience of seeing young people locked up, their energy curtailed, hearing their stories and understanding their experiences. Most of the men in Fénix & Ilusiones have been in the same situation, so their words rang true with the young people. And their message was clear: “You decide what you want to do with your life, but if you continue down this road, this is what will happen”. The cold facts of prison life in Chile are real and disturbing. We are disturbed by the “school to prison pipeline”… through theatre, and the voice of experience, we can do something to stop it.

Comments from the young people who participated:

  • “the play broke the prison routine because being locked up is a drag”
  • “freedom is the most beautiful thing in this universe”
  • “the advice and the activities were awesome”
  • “the play taught us a lot”
  • “I liked the games and the conversation, no-one likes to dry out in jail, must be worse if you’re an adult”
  • “your words were and will be a great help to me”
  • “I hope you can come more often because you taught us a lot like learn to listen to others, learn to be united”
  • “we laughed a lot we are all happy, we were happy to talk with you like equals, everyone from the houses was smiling, even the teachers were pissing themselves laughing, even the screws”
  • “I identified, everything you said was real and moving, your message got to me”
  • “I felt bad because it’s too late for me, I can’t be saved”
  • “a huge motivation to go ahead with our dreams”
  • “we realised we can do much more than what we imagine”
  • “it was great you came and woke up those who think they know it all”

Our thanks to: National Juvenile Service (SENAME) for coordinating the tour and believing in our dream, especially Javier Aguirre; Gendarmería Chile for the transport and authorisations; and thanks to Carolina Ocampo, Justice Department Regional Secretary for coming along and seeing what is possible…

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