THE BAKERY IN A WOMEN´S PRISON

24 Mar, 2015 | Matilda Curtis

Social issues and Reviews

Economic self-sufficiency while incarcerated—con sabor

It’s not easy to make a salteña. 

The filling must be prepared the night before and refrigerated overnight. Construction is a delicate task: each ball of dough is rolled into an eighth-inch-thick circle, folded over the filling, and the edges sealed and scalloped together.

Twelve women stand together in a large kitchen, learning exactly this process. Their uniforms are brand-new, simple and professional: black chef hats, black chef jackets with red linings, and red aprons. One woman—dressed the same but in white—watches over their work. She advises them on their method and arranges the salteñas neatly on a large tray.

René, a bespectacled man in his early thirties, hovers over them. His candor betrays the enthusiasm of a proud parent at a football match: he is keen to show them off. The women are working hard, but every so often, they share a joke.

‘When the bakery opens, you’re going to get fat!’ Isabella, the loudest and most dominant of the group, shouts at René. The women all laugh affectionately. He protests, but laughs along.

René Estenssoro Torricos is the general director of the Seed of Life Association, or SEVIDA. This is an organisation that has been working in the Obrajes prison for women since 2000, attempting to improve the economic, legal, and psychological situation of inmates.

The twelve bakers around him are female prisoners in the midst of training. This prison bakery–large, flooded with light, technologically advanced—will soon open to the public. It will allow the women to learn employable skills and earn a personal income. Customers from outside the prison will be able to order through a door to the outside.

The economic situation in prison is difficult. Women receive a small breakfast and lunch every day, but beyond that they must largely provide for themselves. They need twenty to thirty bolivianos a day for basic necessities: toilet paper, shampoo, food, anything at all they might need for day-to-day living. If a prisoner has children, either inside or outside the prison, school supplies and other necessities are added expenses.

According to Bolivian law, the only thing a prisoner should be deprived of is her freedom. But in Obrajes, there is scant opportunity to work. The prison economy is in a state of fluctuation because jobs are on a constant rotation, and a prisoner needs to be inside for some time before she can start or join a business.

An inmate and baker-in-training, Isabella, seeks advice from the head chef as she attempts to form the edges of the dough. The economy of the prison, she says, can be frustrating and insecure. Although it is possible to start a small business, this requires an initial investment, and many prisoners must rely on loans. But the interest rates, set by fellow prisoners, can fluctuate wildly. This is why the bakery is so important: it will give the women a fixed income with which to rebuild. Isabella has a husband and son in La Paz’s San Pedro prison and a daughter in Obrajes. She cannot rely on familial support or outside income.

The need for money is often the reason behind women’s crimes, René says. ‘For example, a woman has five children’, says René. ‘She has an opportunity to send a package full of drugs for 1,500 dollars. There are lots of conditions that make her fall into crime.’

Their crimes can also be the culmination of years of domestic mistreatment. ‘In Bolivia, there are lots of cultural conditions that mean being a woman in prison is very different to being a man’, René says. Astoundingly, he reckons that 95 percent of the women in Obrajes—and, accordingly, the bakery—have been victims of physical, sexual, or psychological violence.

The importance of the bakery is more than financial. It means the workers are accorded respect, and rewarded for hard work. It’s a chance for women to gain back some control and plan for the future. SEVIDA’s new program is called the Plan for Freedom, and the idea is that, eventually, the women will form their own businesses and create an association. Every salteña sold in the bakery will contribute towards a common pot, from which every baker will receive income. The rest of the money will go toward programs to benefit prisoners such as contracting a doctor to provide gynecological and psychological care.

René is also trying to create a network of family members to sell bread so they can benefit too. The program is still in its early days, but its aims are clear: to empower the women and their family members, and to support the prison.

Signing up to the bakery is a gamble. There is no guarantee that jailhouse salteñas will sell. There are already weaving and laundering businesses within the prison that have enjoyed some success, but a panadería requires a very quick turnaround and a set of regular customers. The women will need a loyal network outside on which to build and extend their reach.

But whether or not the bakery proves lucrative, its significance—purely as a training ground—is clear. There are two handwritten posters tacked up outside the kitchen. One advertises the lessons for making salteñas. The other reads, simply: ‘Porque aprender algo más siempre es bueno’ (Because learning something new is always good).

René says he wants the bakery to ‘let the women know that the lives they have had are not the only reality. I want them to generate and construct a different type of reality.’

The bakery provides a reality of high expectation. The brand-new uniforms and equipment encourage a certain level of behaviour. Professionalism is expected, so the women rise to the challenge. But their individual personalities haven’t been hidden entirely. Just visible underneath their highly professional chef’s coats are long, coloured skirts, flip-flops and socks, heeled boots and Crocs.

And, as the women place their salteñas on a tray in the large oven in the corner, they discuss the party they’re going to have when the bakery finally opens its doors.

‘Can we have stripper clowns?’ roars Isabella. They all laugh as René shakes his head disapprovingly. But he looks away. He can’t help but laugh too.


Illustration: Emma Inge

Comments

Prof Claude Capital
30 Jul, 2018 | 09:48
Hello, are you in debt or need urgent cash/financial help? do you need a loan, fast and reliable, this is the right place to get credible loans. We offer all kind of loans including international loans to individual and public sector that are in need of financial assistance in a low interest rate of 2%. Bad credit acceptable The terms and conditions are very simple and considerate. We have the access/contacts to raise from $10,000.00 to $600,000,000.00 Dollars with our reliable loan company and other top prime AA Banks like Chase Bank, HSBC, Wells Fargo, The Best Banks for SBA Loans E.T.C. always facing financial problems with unpaid bills and don't know which way to go or where to turn? What about finding a reputable Debt Consolidation firm that can assist you in reducing monthly installment so that you will have affordable repayment options as well as room to breathe when it comes to the end of the month and bills need to get paid? have you been looking for a quick and legit loan online why don't you try Capital Management Inc. loan company and be free from debts note getting a loan from this company is 100% assured and guaranteed. It will be a great joy to us when you are financially stable. reduce your payments to ease the strain on your monthly expenses contact us via Email profclaudecapital@gmail.com NOTE: Bear in mind that it will only take less than 24 or 42 Hours to process your file is 100% Guaranteed no matter your Credit Score. We are certified, trustworthy, reliable, efficient, fast and dynamic. No stress No tension, just apply free feel and relax to receive your loan, There is more to gain by getting a loan from this company. your victory is 100% guarantee contact us via Email profclaudecapital@gmail.com
SuiteCapitals@gmail.com
28 Apr, 2018 | 03:53
We Offers Financial Consulting To Client, Companies Seeking Debt / Loan Financing And Seeking For Working Capital To Start A New Business Or To Expand Existing Business. Interested Parties Should Contact Us For More Information Through Via E-mail: SuiteCapitals@gmail.com ( SuiteCapitals@post.com ) We Have Loan Programs Tailored For Any Profile And You've Come To The Right Place To Satisfy Your Business Needs. If Your Company Or You Know Of Any Company With Viable Projects / Proposals That Needs Financing, Kindly Write Us With The Loan Requirement. Please, Contact Us For More Information: SuiteCapitals@gmail.com ( SuiteCapitals@post.com ) You Will Hear From Us. Well Nice To Meet You And I look forward to our Business Acquaintance. Interested Parties Should Contact Us For More Information Through Via E-mail: SuiteCapitals@gmail.com ( SuiteCapitals@post.com )
Walsh Robert
28 Aug, 2018 | 20:14
We are authorized Financial consulting firm that work directly with A rated banks eg Lloyds Bank,Barclays Bank,HSBC bank etc We provide BG, SBLC, LC, LOAN and lots more for clients all over the world. We are equally ready to work with Brokers and financial consultants/consulting firms in their respective countries. Our procedures are most reasonable and safest as we operate a 100% financial risk free process which entails that the issuing and receiving bank continues the transaction immediately after DOA is countersigned We hope to establsih a long term business relationship with you even after this first trial Regards WALSH SMITH, ROBERT email : info.iqfinanceplc@gmail.com skype: cpt_young1 Tel contact: +447031968934
bdsfn.com@gmail.com
07 Jul, 2018 | 05:28
Attention! Attention!! Attention!!!, What is your situation? *Need 100% financing *Can't verify income *Can't verify employment *Recently self employed *Bankruptcy Collections *Credit issues *Accumulated Bills Settlement * Personal Investment Project or Company Investment Projects e.t.c. Apply for a quick and convenient loan to pay off bills and debts, start a new business or refinance your projects and expand your business in this year 2018 at the cheapest interest rate of 1%. For more details email us today via email:(bdsfn.com@gmail.com) Email : bdsfund@fastservice.com Emaill: anatiliatextileltd@gmail.com Emaill: bdsfn.com@gmail.com Best Regards. Mrs.Carol Anderson
CITGROUP INC
04 May, 2018 | 18:55
I wish to share this with your friends only because I am very happy now, if you finally need any credits, then you can contact them by email at CITGROUPINC@FINANCIER.COM
dana
18 Apr, 2018 | 11:03
I got my already programmed blank ATM card to withdraw the maximum of $5 000 00 daily for a maximum of 30 days. I am so happy about this because i got mine last week and I have used it to get $150 000 00. JOSEPHNE KUMUYI is giving out the card just to help the poor and needy though it is illegal but it is something nice and she is not like other scam pretending to have the ATM cards. And no one gets caught when using the card. Get yours from her. By send her an email via: blankatmmachine441@gmail.com
SuiteCapitals@gmail.com
17 Apr, 2018 | 00:19
We Offers Financial Consulting To Client, Companies Seeking Debt / Loan Financing And Seeking For Working Capital To Start A New Business Or To Expand Existing Business. Interested Parties Should Contact Us For More Information Through Via E-mail: SuiteCapitals@gmail.com ( SuiteCapitals@post.com ) We Have Loan Programs Tailored For Any Profile And You've Come To The Right Place To Satisfy Your Business Needs. If Your Company Or You Know Of Any Company With Viable Projects / Proposals That Needs Financing, Kindly Write Us With The Loan Requirement. Please, Contact Us For More Information: SuiteCapitals@gmail.com ( SuiteCapitals@post.com ) You Will Hear From Us. Well Nice To Meet You And I look forward to our Business Acquaintance. Interested Parties Should Contact Us For More Information Through Via E-mail: SuiteCapitals@gmail.com ( SuiteCapitals@post.com )

Make a comment