Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons season 3, episode 2 recap: Colombia: Narco Prison


Episode 2 of Netflix series Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons heads to Bogotá,  Colombia, capital of the world’s largest cocaine producer.

As Rick James famously noted on Chappelle’s Show, “Cocaine is a hell of a drug.” Sure, cocaine is stereotypically known for its links to addiction and barbaric violence, but one easily wonders if the drug war can solve the problem through incarceration. It objectively seems it can’t, and Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons does a halfway decent job of illustrating why. For those who think it’s an ideological matter, just follow Raphael Rowe into Colombia’s District Prison and you’ll see why it’s an unwinnable battle (at least through military and prison tactics).

Colombia’s war on drugs has basically become a civil war, with a murder rate 5 times higher than the United States (which itself has a high murder and incarceration rate). Since the day of Pablo Escobar, much time and energy have been put into combating drug mules, hitmen, and low-level pushers, yet economic hardship seems to only create more of such people. Raphael Row compares the prison to a fortress or a “concrete tomb,” and the place is brimming with drug gangs. Before long there is mention of “basuco,” a crazy variation on crack made with cocaine paste, brick dust, and sulfuric acid. Many in the prison’s six pavilions are drug addicts, surely full of crazy and sad stories.

Hernan’s threat and Chef Ramiro

On his first day, Raphael Rowe meets his cellmate, Hernan, who is awaiting trial for murder. He is quick to assert himself, saying that Rowe has to pay him to stay in the cell. He even threatens to kill him with a knife if he doesn’t pay! Hernan says he uses a knife, not his fist, and that he’s the block’s chief drug dealer. While he smokes a joint, prisoners shout from cell to cell, and Raphael tells us he worried that Hernan’s joint was laced with something in addition to marijuana.

More. Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons season 3 premiere recap: Costa Rica: Prison on a Knife-Edge. light

More from Netflix

The next day, after a 5 am wake-up, Raphael heads with other prisoners to a weird roofless section of the prison. He says prisoners have to leave their cells even when it rains. He chats with Chef Ramiro, who is technically under native law, so he can’t be tried by the Colombian government over drug use. He says he’s allowed to use coca. We also learn that a coca leaf is somewhat different from what we call cocaine. According to Rowe, Ramiro’s a decent chef. The meal’s not bad, consisting of white rice, bean soup, and potatoes.

Gaining respect/A sad tale

Later on, Rowe joins a game of football (what Americans call “soccer”). As a bit of relief, Hernan respects Raphael more for his skills in the game. In fact, he even plays chess with Hernan, and they talk more about Hernan’s life. Not surprisingly, Hernan sells drugs to make money. As it turns out, though, not everyone begins selling drugs by choice. Some are quite literally forced into. In the prison’s textiles unit, a Mexican inmate named José discusses his drug trafficking ordeal.

Previously José had been a mechanic in Mexico City. He says that, at some point, the notorious Los Zetas gang decapitated a boy with a machete in front of him. They told him, in so many words, “You’ll sell drugs or we’ll do the same to you.” It’s about as harrowing a tale as one can find, and believable. A quick look at Los Zetas makes them sound absolutely comparable to ISIS and the worst tyrants in history. It’s definitely one of Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons craziest moments (though it still competes with season 2’s interviews with serial killer Serhiy Tkach).

Prayers, drug dogs

Later on, an inmate who threatened to stab Row, Alexander, leads a prayer group. During the meeting, Alexander begins tearing up, admitting he destroyed families by selling basuco. He seems genuinely saddened and disturbed by his life. Shortly after the meeting, Raphael joins Officer Ochoa, a trainer for sniffer drugs, to test the dog’s abilities. Rowe hides marijuana in a cell for a dog, hiding it with tissue paper and a bar of soap. The dog finds it before long, earning a treat.

Prison has things to do

We also meet a man named Luis, apparently in some variety of solitary confinement. He only gets out 2 to stretch times a day to make a phone call. Sadly, Luis prefers the safety of solitary over life outside. Other inmates attend another therapy session where inmates say things like, “I have killed people, not just with guns.” Rowe says the therapy is not enough, but is positive nonetheless.

Next. Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons season 2 finale recap: ‘Belize: The Prison that Found God’. dark

We also learn that Alexander’s allowed a conjugal visit with his wife Astrid. She’s afraid that, if and when Alexander gets released, he will end up in prison again. Understandably, it makes tears appear in his eyes. Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons doesn’t look at every facet of prison life, but you get a pretty good picture of it, and the craziness outside the walls which create such places to begin with.

That’s it for this Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons recap! What are your thoughts? Let us know in the comments!