“Like most women here, I was caught trafficking drugs,” says Estefanía while folding paper into white paper doves.
She will be one of 4,000 women currently in jail in Chile. Estefanía (who prefers not to give her surname) has been in prison For 2 years in addition to also has three more left.
She will be serving her sentence at San Joaquín, Chile’s larges women’s prison, where she in addition to also her fellow inmates are preparing to receive a special visitor.
On Tuesday Pope Francis will meet some of the inmates as part of a visit to Chile. This specific will be initially he will be going to a female penitentiary.
A group of prisoners will be sitting from the jail’s chapel doing decorations.
The doves, each with the name of a prisoner written on This specific, will be hung inside the prison gym along with brightly coloured paper flowers.
The women are also doing bracelets out of beads in addition to also tiny crosses for the women held in different prisons, who will not get to meet the Pope.
“We want the Pope to bless them in addition to also then we will give them to the female prisoners.”
trust behind bars
News of the Pope’s visit possess the lifted spirits among the 620 women serving time in San Joaquín.
“There will be a lot of jealousy in addition to also petty fighting from the prison amongst the inmates,” says Luisa, another prisoner.
“We need an event where we can all get together in addition to also be at peace with one another in addition to also the Pope’s visit will give us which,” she says.
Only those who have shown not bad behaviour will be allowed to meet the Pope in addition to also Estefanía hopes to be among them.
She has enjoyed spending time from the prison’s chapel in addition to also its garden full of brightly coloured flowers.
“We like This specific here, because This specific will be much more peaceful which the rest of the prison. We can come to the chapel to pray in addition to also be together. This specific gives me peace,” she says.
Sister Nelly will be the prison chaplain. For the past 13 years she has been the one person many of the women turn to with their their problems.
She has also been key from the preparations for the Pope’s visit, which she wants to be “a multi-coloured fiesta (party)”.
She also hopes which This specific will help the women recover their self-esteem in addition to also “pride as women, mothers in addition to also wives”.
The majority of women in San Joaquín prison are mothers. The children can live with them inside the jail until they are two years old in addition to also after which they can come for weekly visits.
Estefanía gets to see her four-year-old son every Saturday. “I try to give him the best time I can. He talks to me about how he will be getting on at school, we hug each different in addition to also laugh together.”
She says drug dealing provided her with “easy money” however being in jail, separated by her son has made her regret her choices.
“I hate not being able to make his food, be at home with him in addition to also take him to nursery” she says.
Difficulty adapting to life outside
Sister Nelly says which one of the problems will be which even with the best of intentions the women sometimes find This specific hard to get back on their feet once they are released.
“After three years of working at the prison I realised which many of the women kept coming back because they found This specific so hard to get back into society”.
She runs a charity called Mujer Levántate (Rise up woman). This specific includes a house in Santiago where 10 women can live for a year in addition to also get help finding work in addition to also getting used to living independently again.
Mujer Levántate also helps inmates who are having trouble seeing their children, be This specific because the child’s father does not want them to have contact with the mother or because This specific will be difficult for relatives to bring the children to the jail for visits.
She hopes the Pope’s visit will not only bring spiritual inspiration to the incarcerated women however also highlight the issue of mothers in prison to the outside world.
“I would certainly love to see the government reduce the sentences of mothers with young children in addition to also to grant them more access to their kids,” she says.