The only requirement for entering this Latin American prison is to commit to work or study and the motivation goes beyond the salary they charge.
On the outside, Punta de Rieles resembles other prisons: it is surrounded by fences and there are agents guarding the perimeter with their rifles. But on the inside, the jail guards were replaced by some 200 prison operators, mostly women, who carry no weapons and have a more socially oriented training, psychology and human rights.
"We want to build citizenship, humanize penalties," says Luis Parodi, current director of Punta de Rieles. This prison houses around 500 prisoners. In some ways, it works like a village. The confectionery, the social store, the block, a hairdresser, a rotisserie, a house of tattoos and an orchard are some of the projects that work on a normal day, The prisoners circulate almost without restrictions, always inside the perimeter.
The cells, which are meant for four or six people, are only used for sleeping and some barracks remain open 24 hours. In turn, there are projected to be individual places so that the prisoners can have a space of privacy.
"It's like a private neighborhood, is not it?" Jokes Denis, who catches customers through the bakery window. The place is humble, but with the effort of the prisoners themselves it keeps improving.
On a visit day, the relatives buy at the door of the jail tickets so that the prisoner can make purchases in the shops of the prison. The money they pay for each ticket is deposited in the account of the owner of the enterprise. The amount of money that prisoners or their relatives can invest in internal tickets can not exceed 1500 Uruguayan pesos per month (approximately 500 Argentine pesos). The system was invented by Fabian, one of the inmates, owner of the confectionery. With much effort, Fabian managed to set up a small place outside the prison, which will open when released.
The money that comes in belongs to the entrepreneur, and only a variable fee of up to 20% is deducted for the consumption of electricity and water, and the use of the land.
80% of the enterprises within Punta de Rieles are of the prisoners. There are also detainees who work for the state and charge a fee. In the educational area, a space called Digital Inclusion encourages detainees to access the Internet, with some filters.
In order to maintain family ties, many of the prisoners who work are allowed to use cell phones. It is also allowed that the wives of some prisoners stay to sleep with them on weekends.
In one of the buildings of the building works the radio of the "town". "We take care of this place among all those who work here," says Dario, announcer and singer of the prison. And he adds: "It is a space of freedom".