Gamechanger: Changing prison life through theater

Americas Now

Johana Bahamon: touching inmates’ lives through theater

The bleak conditions of prison life in Latin America are something Americas Now has reported in the past. From overcrowded jails to security conditions to systematic abuse of the interns, the chances of effective rehabilitation of the inmates are slim. 

For this week’s Gamechanger, we traveled to Bogota, where someone has devised a new way to help in this process. She’s an actress who discovered not only the powerful effect theater can have in the inmates’ attitude and outlook on life, but also in the way society in general regards them. The results have been far-reaching: play by play, she’s making a difference in prisons across Colombia. And in the process, she has poured herself entirely into this newfound cause through the Internal Theater Foundation. Her name is Johana Bahamon.

As could be expected, the Foundation’s mission has met considerable obstacles, the main one being skepticism from the prison’s authorities. More recently, one play that prisoners had been rehearsing for three months was cancelled because of a strike by prison guards. In over a hundred of Colombia’s prisons, guards were protesting for increased wages, and the strike prevented inmates from rehearsing and performing.