I never imagined myself going to prison. Not for a crime, not for a visit, not for the sake of curiosity – not for any reason at all. In my imagination, I pictured convicts dressed in black and white stripes, shuffling along with balls and chains around their ankles – a misconception obviously fueled by years of television and movies. With all this in mind and camera in hand, I arrived at 9am at the Penitentiary Unit #48 in San Martin, Buenos Aires. I am here because of Rugby.
My path to the Penitentiary began with a chance meeting of a rugby coach. I had been searching for a new topic to photograph, and become fascinated with the idea of deconstructing the stereotypes surrounding a sport that had only become popular in Argentina over the past several years. Many believe the sport to be elitist, and not easily accessible to the majority of everyday people in the country.
Prison conditions in Argentina, like most of Latin America, are generally poor, with overcrowding, inadequate physical conditions and corruption leading to frequent outbreaks of violence.
In politics, there is little understanding for the problems of jails as well as prevention of crime. It produces an erroneous belief that the solution to the problem lies in more severe punishments, lowering the age of criminal responsibility and more segregation.
There is also lack of programs for social reinsertion that would promote changes that allow that on their release they may become useful persons to themselves to their families and to society.
Two external coaches that also work as lawyers realized that applying the fundamentals of Rugby could be beneficiary for the inmates. They started with only 5 prisoners, and within 3 years, they become 30. Today they called themselves “The Spartans” and as a team they dream for a better future… or at least they try.