Portfolio

Experience our photographers’ unique views on detention by browsing the picture gallery below. These photographers have generously shared their portfolios with us.

The Franklin Masacre Survivors

01.jpg
Gallery
01.jpg
i
Caption
©Carlos Hernandez
02.jpg
i
Caption
A group of inmates of the General Penitentiary of Venezuela (PGV) rests in the overcrowded infirmary of the 26 de Julio facility, adjacent to the PGV, after having been evaluated by medical staff from the Ministry of Penitentiary Services. — ©Carlos Hernandez
03.jpg
i
Caption
Two prisoners in surgical masks, suspected of having contracted tuberculosis in the PGV, share a bed due to overcrowding in the infirmary. — ©Carlos Hernandez
04.jpg
i
Caption
©Carlos Hernandez
05.jpg
i
Caption
©Carlos Hernandez
06.jpg
i
Caption
©Carlos Hernandez
07.jpg
i
Caption
An inmate from the PGV using a nebulizer in the hallway of the 26 de Julio prison infirmary. — ©Carlos Hernandez
08.jpg
i
Caption
Jerson Ronarcho undresses for an inspection by the National Guard. All he owns are the clothes on his back: two t-shirts, underwear, shorts, a pair of pants and Crocs shoes. As he removes his clothing, his malnourished state is evident. — ©Carlos Hernandez
09.jpg
i
Caption
Apart from his clothes, Jerson Ronarcho's survival kit includes a tupperware container, a plastic drinking cup and a copy of the Holy Scripture. — ©Carlos Hernandez
10.jpg
i
Caption
Jerson Ronarcho walks past a line of National Guardsmen, leading the first group of prisoners to be taken by bus to another prison. — ©Carlos Hernandez
11.jpg
i
Caption
Jerson Ronarcho, the first to board the bus that will take him to another prison, is not shackled to another inmate. Once onboard, following the guards' instructions, he will sit with his head down, neither looking at nor conversing with anyone. — ©Carlos Hernandez
12.jpg
i
Caption
Groups of inmates, sorted by their physical condition and by the prison they will be sent to, await inspection by the National Guard in the prison yard before boarding the buses. — ©Carlos Hernandez
13.jpg
i
Caption
From his post at the entrance of the prison yard, a guard from the Ministry of Penitentiary Services watches over groups of inmates awaiting transfer. — ©Carlos Hernandez
14.jpg
i
Caption
Many of the prisoners who escaped from the PGV came barefoot or with their shoes in extremely poor condition. Some were able to get new shoes before being transferred. — ©Carlos Hernandez
15.jpg
i
Caption
A group of prisoners, the majority of them very young, sits in the prison yard on 26 July, awaiting transfer to other prisons. — ©Carlos Hernandez
16.jpg
i
Caption
Using a single set of handcuffs, authorities from the Ministry of Prisons keep prisoners from the GPV in twos until they are transferred to other prisons. — ©Carlos Hernandez
17.jpg
i
Caption
Prisoners from the PGV await transfer in the 26 de Julio yard, listening to instructions from the guards of the Ministry of Prisons. — ©Carlos Hernandez
18.jpg
i
Caption
A corrections officer handcuffs two prisoners together in the prison yard where they await inspection by the National Guard. — ©Carlos Hernandez
19.jpg
i
Caption
Separated from the rest of the prisoners, this inmate waits for others who will be transferred to the same prison. — ©Carlos Hernandez
20.jpg
i
Caption
An inmate bears the tattoos on his arm and chest: “María” and “Not everything is happiness” — ©Carlos Hernandez
21.jpg
i
Caption
Prisoners emerge from the holding area in the cell-block and into the prison yard, to be grouped before their transfer to other prisons. — ©Carlos Hernandez
22.jpg
i
Caption
A young inmate, severely malnourished, accompanies another inmate on crutches as he gets on the bus. They will sit together but won't be allowed to talk along the way. — ©Carlos Hernandez
23.jpg
i
Caption
©Carlos Hernandez
24.jpg
i
Caption
A national guardsman calls roll to check that all prisoners are onboard. — ©Carlos Hernandez
25.jpg
i
Caption
A national guardsman walks between the prisoners along the aisle of the bus, as one of them, Rainier Fernandez, eyes the camera. — ©Carlos Hernandez
26.jpg
i
Caption
Family members of the prisoners stand outside the 26 de Julio prison for several hours, trying anxiously to get a glimpse of their loved ones as the buses leave the prison. — ©Carlos Hernandez
27.jpg
i
Caption
Family members' reflections on a bus leaving the 26 de Julio prison, as the inmates sit with their heads bowed — ©Carlos Hernandez
28.jpg
i
Caption
©Carlos Hernandez
Find in
128

The police finally intervened October 22, during an airborne operation. After regaining control of the prison, the authorities moved all the prisoners to other institutions

Background

FRANKLIN MASACRE is a prison leader or “pran” (a prisoner who has taken control of a prison). Although released, Franklin is again being pursued by the authorities and has sought refuge in the General Penitentiary of Venezuela (PGV), he murdered the leader on call and has taken control of the prison.

The authorities announced that they would intervene in the institution after there was a grenade explosion caused by the “pranes” which resulted in a total of 12 deaths and 23 injured. Franklin Masacre then encouraged more than 300 close family members of the inmates to enter the facilities to stop the authorities’ operation.

During the conflict, a media war between the authorities and Franklin Masacre broke out which went on for a month. The pran opened a YouTube channel to show the extreme living conditions in the prisons and showed videos of people who died of tuberculosis, inmates demanding medication and food.

The authorities replied with the testimonies of former inmates who had one of their limbs amputated by the “pran” for being too poor to pay the tax, which he demands of every inmate within the prison he controls, and with images of common graves in which Franklin Masacre buried his victims.

The police finally intervened October 22, during an airborne operation. After regaining control of the prison, the authorities moved all the prisoners to other institutions. Carlos Hernandez was able to capture images the moment the prisoners reached the infirmary and were preparing for their transfer.

it was incredible that this happened here, in Venezuela, inside a prison, and that those responsible were other prisoners

Impressions

I FOUND MYSELF with these prisoners who had escaped being kidnapped by Franklin Masacre, the pran of the General Penitentiary of Venezuela. The prisoners arrived by themselves to the 26 of July Prison, which is almost next to PGV, where they turned themselves in to the Ministry of Prisons’ authorities.

Officials from the Ministry of Prisons gave me access on two occasions, the 17th and 18th November, 2016. On the first occasion, I could see the operation the Ministry was implementing to deal with the prisoners during this abnormal situation. The first thing was to check their physical state and health in the completely insufficient prison infirmary, since four of the rooms were filled with prisoners, crowded together but being treated by the medical personnel.

As there weren't sufficient beds, they had to sleep on the floor. In the rooms, as well as the reception and the hallways. It was suspected that many of them were sick with tuberculosis.

This was of greatest importance, and I was most interested by this, then it gave me an idea of how life was for those who were in PGV. Nevertheless, access was limited, I only had ten minutes in the infirmary. The Ministry wanted to show the whole operation, which included identification, collation of the data collected by SAIME, on each of the prisoners, with ministerial information, to classify the escapees.

The next day, I was permitted to witness a transfer of 400 prisoners to other penal institutions closer to the jurisdiction in which they had committed their crimes and where they had open cases. They were going to be moved in six buses, guarded by the National Guard.

When I entered, they were almost all sitting on the ground, in the prison courtyard, waiting on the National Guard inspection and listening to the instructions from ministry officials about their move.

Besides the photographers from the ministry, I was the only photographer there.

I started taking pictures, not knowing how long they would allow me to. I sensed that it wouldn't be long, so with my two cameras I took pictures of everything that I could see.

What immediately caught my attention was how young they all were; although they were malnourished and skinny, you could clearly see that many of them were in their twenties. That impacted me a lot, there were more young people than I expected to see.

From the first moment, I realised their state of malnutrition, and I could see the tension in their face, because they did not know what was going to happen, nor where they were being moved to. They tried very hard to listen, but they were inattentive, trying to look at every side, maybe looking for familiar faces. They were sitting on the floor, with handcuffs pairing them with another prisoner.

They all had the “kit” which the Ministry of Prisons gave to the inmates: a cup and a cover-less plastic container for food. Many of them did not have shoes, their clothing fit them all quite loosely. Some of them wore surgical masks, which indicated that they were infected with tuberculosis.

The National Guard arrived and formed a tunnel on one of the courts, where the inspections would take place, before getting on the buses. Within the tunnel, the inmates being inspected started to undress completely.

The first inmate who was being inspected, who was not handcuffed at another prisoner, started to take off his clothes. It was at that moment that I really understood what these people had experienced. The image I saw reminded me of photographs from German concentration camps, during the Second World War, of the extermination camps in Bosnia, but it was incredible that this happened here, in Venezuela, inside a prison, and that those responsible were other prisoners.

I stayed there taking pictures of that man, who only had two t-shirts, his pants, a Bermuda shorts, an underpants and some plastic Croc shoes. Apart from his cup and container, he was clinging to a Bible. His countenance was sad, worn, but his gaze was deep. I saw his name on the container: Jerson Ronaldo. So, I decided to stay and take pictures of him, and so I did until he got onto the bus. Then I continued taking pictures of everything that I could, other inmates who were boarding the bus and the National Guard checking them on the inside. When that bus was full, I received an order to leave the courtyard.

Two and a half hours later, the buses were ready to go. That is when I left and took a picture of the family members, who were waiting at the prison doors. Most of them were women: mothers, wives, sisters of some of the prisoners.

They needed news: their loved ones had been in PGV and they still didn't know if they had survived the terrible Franklin Masacre.

carlos_hernandez.jpg

Carlos Hernandez

Photojournalist

Since the age of 10 when his father gives him a Kodak Brownie Fiesta, Carlos Hernandez has not stopped photographing everything that surrounds him, mainly people.

He worked as a photojournalist in newspapers and news agencies, where he learned how to cope with uncontrolled and adverse conditions.

At the end of the 1990s, accompanied by a judge, he participated in the nocturnal inspection of the most notorious jail in Venezuela at the moment: the Catia Flores, famous for its brutal overcrowding. Witnessing his demolition, Carlos knew however that without a thorough reform of the judicial system, this would not change anything.

Twenty years later, after having photographed the prisoners who escaped the horror of the General Penitentiary of Venezuela and his Franklin Masacre, Carlos remains convinced that nothing has changed in the Venezuelan judicial system.

Stand by us

Monthly donation

Take action
Produce
Share our content
Contribute
mockups_devices_en.png