Mexican theater company helps inmates reintegrate into society

CCTV News

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In a country with one of the highest imprisonment rates in Latin America, a theater company has been working with inmates to organize plays for the general public in a Mexico City prison. The project was created to help bring art into a marginalized population and also to help reintegrate the prisoners into society.

CCTV America’s Martin Markovits reports. Follow Martin Markovits on Twitter @MartinMarkovits

Mexican theater company helps inmates reintegrate into society

Mexican theater company helps inmates reintegrate into society

A theater company has been working with inmates to organize plays for the general public in a Mexico City prison.

About 20 inmates of one of Mexico’s toughest penitentiaries, Santa Martha Actatitla men’s prison, are taking part in a performance of William Shakespeare’s Richard lll, but with a modern twist. They have added lines about Mexico’s bloody narco wars.

Oscar Lara, one of the main actors is familiar with the subject. He is a former police officer, and is serving 15 years for kidnapping.

“The message I am trying to convey is against the government. The government and narco trafficking are the same thing. They are all complicit and that is why there is so much corruption and organized crime. That is what my role is about,” Lara said.

The Mexican independent theater company, Shakespeare Forum, has been organizing plays in the prison since 2010. Three times a month, the inmates perform in a 100 seat theater inside the jail. It has been an important outlet for these inmates in one of the most overcrowded prison systems in Latin America. 

The money generated from the theater tickets has enabled prisoners and the coordinators to receive a salary, which will definitely help Oscar Lara when he gets out. He said he feels he now has a new calling in life — in the theater.

“It’s an opportunity. Hopefully, I will leave one phase of my life and enter a better one because that is how life is. For me, being jailed hasn’t been bad. To the contrary, it has helped me grow,” Lara said.

Through art and performance, the organizers of the Shakespeare Forum hope to continue to help rehabilitate criminals. They hope a further exploration of drama on the stage will keep inmates away from the crime and drama in real life.