Inmates at the 1, 2, and 3 yards are participating to the worship of "Strong Tower" church in La Gotera jail. At the center, one of the inmates has a 18 tattoo on the skull in reference to his former gang, 18th Street.
Prisonners at the 4,5,6 yards of La Gotera's jail pray at the worship of the Final Trumpet church. The Church was created in 2010 inside the jail, and it progressively took power on this part of the jail two years ago in 2016 when the director organized one yard only composed by converted former gang member.
A group of prisoners is listening the class an inmate is giving about haircut. A verse of the Bible is recalled on the whiteboard. Inside every yard, the inmates are participating to a class where they can learn a practical training (about bakery, serigraphy, carpentry, etc.), a religious education or an alphabetization class. Since almost two years, the government of El Salvador started a program of reinsertion inside the prisons, named “Yo Cambio”, “I Change”. In La Gotera jail, the director mixed the program with religious instructions.
The yards 4, 5 and 6 of the jail, the inmates are gathered to listen the pastor of the Final Trumpet church. According to the prison director, half of the prisoners are serving a sentence of more than 30 years (and a quarter more than 50 years). If gang affiliation is lifelong, there is an exception: when “God reclaims a soul”, of course with death but also for devotion to religious activities. Conversion became the only way tolerated by the gang leaders to get out alive. With Christianity, the prisoners find a bit of inner peace given by the hope of reward for their repentance and good behaviors.
On a wall of the jail, a wall painting itemizes the rules the converted prisoners have to follow. Between them, the second says: “Respect and obey to the ecclesiastic and civil authorities". At the left side, a ewe painted represents a prisoner in reference to the traditional representation in the evangelical symbolism of a herd that have to follow the recommendation of the pastor.
The inmates study several kind of knowledge but always mixed with some allusions to "Christian values".
Prisoners of the yards 4, 5 and 6 of La Gotera jail participe to the worship of the Final Trumpet church. They are singing a christian song glorifying God amidst drumming and electric guitars melodies played by the inmates.
The worship of the Strong Tower church starts at the yards 1, 2 and 3 of La Gotera jail. The inmates are dancing and singing. The Strong Tower church was created few time ago, once the Final Trumpet church evangelized all the yards 4, 5 and 6.
Oscar Benavides, director of La Gotera jail, gives a speech to the prisoners. In two short years, the jail has tipped to Evangelical Protestantism with 1,500 prisoners sentenced for their activities in the 18th Street, now converted. In charge since three years, the jail director made the bet to give more power to some incarcerated pastors and former gang members. From a first yard, the conversion extended progressively to the five others. Only some seventy diehards, isolated from the others, still refuse to convert.
An Inmate is reading his Bible and taking note.
The inmates are listening the pastor talking at the time of the worship in the 1,2,3 yards of La Gotera's jail.
The tattoo on the arm of the prisoner is a triple 6 that means 18, the name of the gang. The tattoo is barred. The triple 6 also appoints the name of the “Beast”.
The assistant of the general pastor wears a sweat-shirt with the writing “Warrior of God“. The inmates and former gang members, consider themselfves as an army of God.
At the time of a worship, Manuel Rivera, pastor of the Strong Tower church looks at the prisoners, while the jail director is giving a speach in front of the 827 prisoners of the 1,2,3 yards of La Gotera's jail. This part of the jail is recently converted to Christianity. According to the jail director Oscar Benavides, 120 gang leaders were converted to Christianity in the last months.
At the time of a worship, a prisoner with tattoo on his face is listening to the pastor, a bible opened on his hands. Almost all the prisoners have a personal bible. According to the prison director 250 inmates cannot read and are following the alphabetization program.
At the center, "Champo", a well-know leader of the 18th Street in La Dina neighborhood, where the Eben Ezer church is located. He is participating with commitment to the worship of the Final Trumpet church at La Gotera prison. The jail director, Oscar Benavides, tells that 120 gang leaders were converted to Christianity over the last months.
An inmate is cutting the hair of an other inmate with standard scissors. On the skull appears a 18 tattooed.
The inmates are playing football in a confined space.
Prisonner at the La Gotera's jail.
Prisoners of the 4,5 and 6 yards of La Gotera's jail are gathered at the time of a worship in the place where they stay during the night. Several people sleep on every bed. Others sleep on hammocks wounded on the ceiling during the day. Some water bottles are hanged on the wall they are the daily ration of water the inmates have to use to drink or to wash. The life conditions are distressing at La Gotera's jail. There is an unsustainable warm. The food is bad and reduced, and the water is strictly rationed. The numbers of prisoners exceeds totally the capacity of the jail.