Mexico’s Rising Female Prison Population: The Other Side Of The Game

“With a sweet, awkward smile, Nancy Lilia Núñez offered up the main details of her life: she is a mother of three, having given birth to a daughter just seven months ago, and she is serving a 25-year sentence for helping to kidnap a 15-year-old girl. We were sitting at El Cereso — the Ciudad Juárez prison — a drab, hulking complex of brick and steel. Ms. Núñez wore tight jeans and eye makeup, as if heading to the mall.”

And so goes the tale of the thousands of young women who are involved with the country’s notorious drug trafficking and cartel life. Writer Damien Cave and photographer Kate Orlinsky offer insight into the growing population of Mexico’s female prison population, which has grown 400 percent since 2007. The main culprit? Men, drugs and unemployment. For urban girls like me, we grew up with the “down-ass chick” immortalized in hip-hop rhymes and movies, but the reality is that once you are caught that glory goes out the window, you become incarcerated, and in many cases, alone. In Mexico, telenovelas seem to love the ‘woman as criminal’ plot-line, and the shows earn high ratings because it’s an age old story with real consequences.

Read the piece on these women and see their images here.

Shown above: Claudia Ramírez Contreras, 21, and her sister, Eunice Ramírez, 19, outside their prison cell. The women are accused of kidnapping.

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