San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

PHOTOS: Faces from La Reforma prison

Located in San Rafael de Alajuela, La Reforma prison is the biggest in Costa Rica. It’s built to house 2,197 inmates but right now it holds 2,912, making it 32.5 percent over capacity.

Infrastructure is old and damaged, and prisoners contend with unsanitary, often waterless bathrooms, lack of beds, bad food, foul-smelling cells and common areas and few educational or job training opportunities.

Inside, drugs and alcohol are easily available, inmates say, and many prisoners suffer aggression from others. Some incidents have resulted in death.

The Tico Times was invited to visit the prison this week as part of a government effort to bring attention to overcrowding and put pressure on the Legislative Assembly to include more funding for the prison system in next year’s budget. The following are portraits of some of the inmates at La Reforma.

See also: A look inside Costa Rica’s San Rafael Prison


Contact Alberto Font at

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Seeing these pictures the facial tattoos, they become undesirable , Once they have a black mark against their name they can never get a job at a legit company here. They have their name registered and when getting their report for employment not going to happen. Like all prison no one in the free world cares much except their families. I see the long line of women lined up outside the gate for their “conjugal visit”. So sad . Where do they go from this place?/ On the streets again. Heaven help us.

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