Dark in the corner of the old town of Cartagena, in the it comes to this tropical Friday night is hot, a most unusual encounter. In front of the thick walls of an old Conventos wardrobe waiting in a suit and evening-dressed managers, artists, tourists, and they have only one goal:. Purely in this women’s prison.

And behind the heavy iron gate, a few meters away, waiting in the black Uniform of convicted terrorists, murderers and Extortionists, and they have only one goal: get out. In addition to life.

Second chances

Around 19 o’clock open is a security guard on the gate, and both sides. The prisoners a taste of freedom: the dimly lit street, the Caribbean street, the scent of cinnamon, caramel and coconut is. A magical realism, like the novels of Gabriel García Márquez.

donations from the star-reader for the project directs the Foundation’s star:

Foundation star – help for people e. V.

IBAN DE90 2007 0000 0469 9500 01



“Colombia”; www.stiftungstern.de

The gate is wide open. The jump in the freedom of just three meters. But none of the inmates jumps. The incoming guests, in turn, is a look at the white grid will open to the left side rows, on discolored Bras and obese woman’s body with little skin between the scars and Tattoos. The magical real inner life of the women’s prison in San Diego.

The guests pass a sign with the inscription: “Segundas Oportunidades” – second chances. Until two years ago, the waste storage of the prison, was here. Today, the luxury restaurant Interno is the first of the female prisoners operated in the world, one of the best in the city. Yes, one of the main attractions of Cartagena, this old Kolonialorts in the North of Colombia, called “the pearl of the Caribbean”.

Hard Reggae Beat is displaced to the sweet salsa sounds from the streets. No policeman stands guard, none of the entering guests will openings are searched, not for weapons or money or drugs in the body – a standard procedure in any prison in South America. Unusual still: Also the women, which expect the guests will not be fake scans, not to knives, files, Weapons, and a question comes up – how often in these days: Is it possible? So much the confidence of paramilitaries, guerrillas, Narcos to operate in this country?


The prisoner Isabel Bolaños (R) officially works as a Secretary for Luz Adriana Diaz, the Boss of the restaurant. And you will sew a skirt.

©Marie Tihon

The guests sit on the pink covered tables. All 60 seats are often reserved long in advance. On the walls Graffiti proliferative jungle plant cover, as would seize upon the nature of the place. In between a lot of mirrors to hang, and admire the waitresses working prisoners with jewelry and Make-up. In the cells that failed you.

Bloody history of Colombia,

Nothing here at the Restaurant Interno reminiscent of a prison. Just some of the screams from the main tract – “puta”, “mierda” – on point: The life in there is hard.

There follow scenes in any of the numerous luxury restaurants in this magnificent city. The mostly dark-skinned waitresses dressed in new white sneakers with pink loops, say, in a friendly “welcome. May it be a drink?”

The white guests, many lifted, choose from three menus. There are seafood Risotto, cassava croquettes, shrimp with coconut – dishes, which the inmates according to the instructions of celebrity chefs to prepare.

The only difference to a classy restaurant: guests are served by Isabel, a terrorist. Wendy, a robber. By Cindy, one to 17 years ‘ imprisonment convicted murderer.


The inmates like to work in the Restaurant. You will be paid and can also reduce your detention time.

©Marie Tihon

The inmates, in turn, guests have experienced in the bloody history of Colombia, often self – violence operate. Kidnappings, Robberies, Extortion.

The two sides meet on the scene of the crime, and perhaps in the courtroom. But never in a Restaurant.

Of the tables talking to penetrate shreds over:

Why are you sitting?

Sandra, the stout cook, responds: “I helped a blackmail. Got two years.”

Wendy, the beauty Queen of the Bunion, says: “I robbed a taxi driver. I was in despair. Had three starving children at home.”

overcoming barriers

Isabel, the answer Oldest: “For the state I’m a terrorist. Initially, I supported the guerrillas, but the path took us to the country. As I helped the paramilitaries.”

But also against questions we hear: what is it Like living in a Penthouse? How is Miami? How to feel the silicone Breasts?

Until late in the night and immerse themselves in conversations that lead to the edge of society and do not want to stop. For a few hours, you are Rich, no Criminals, and no. Only: People.

The formula for success is as so often: You just need to talk. Getting to know one another. Barriers to overcome. Whether between inmates and visitors. Or Locals and migrants. Or globalists and populists. “I don’t see it as voyeurism,” says Isabel. “The guests will learn something about our Background, about the violence that we have experienced. This is part of the rehabilitation. The company receives me.”

Isabel Bolaños, 64, is in the Interno something like a warden. She is also a Receptionist. Bookkeeper of the restaurant. Designer. Seller. At the entrance, she has placed a Stand with self-made handbags. The women have prepared it according to the instructions of the designer Hernán Zajar. They have even founded an own company. The revenue will be transferred to their families. “According to the law, we are allowed to keep anything,” says Isabel.


The prison is located in the heart of the old town of Cartagena

©Marie Tihon

she adds with a grin: “But we pay taxes. We are good citizens.”

Isabel has helped to shape the project Interno from the beginning, since October of 2016. “We cleared out the garbage warehouse, the rats are killed, the walls filled in.” Then, artists came and painted the room. After that, star chefs, even from Peru, the cooking classes gifts: Italian, Peruvian, vegetarian. And then Isabel’s husband, José, and installed all kitchen equipment and fans came.

José enters the prison, he also, without being a great man with a warm gaze controlled. He stands next to his wife in the entrance and gives her a Handy, so that you can speak with your Grandson. Jose, from all of the “Tio” called – uncle, spends every day with Isabel. For 27 years he was a Manager at a Bank. “Now I’m the janitor, on a voluntary basis. They’re not in prison. I’ll buy at their own expense even cable and spare parts. My reward is that I get to see my wife every day.”

Better people

José gives Isabel a kiss. It wraps around him. So an unusual prison scene. With deprivation of liberty, the Whole thing has little to do. It is nothing less than a redefinition of detention.

The question is: Can it work? Can Colombia, this of war and violence-weary country can be, time model?

The idea to Interno, the actress Johana Bahamón had. You travel on a Friday evening from the capital, Bogotá. The lightning, the cameras are rolling, is surrounded by other actors, their arms flapping, the words gush out: “This is my child,” she says over the Interno. “This is the Best thing I have ever done.”

Bahamón came up with the idea, as she was invited years ago to prison, Buen Pastor to Bogotá, as a judge on a talent show. “I saw the miserable conditions there, the hopelessness, the jail made the prisoners to poorer people. Radicalized they will be released back to the society.”

she gave up her acting career six years ago, and all of them together tumbled: sponsors, top chefs, the upper class of this star-obsessed country. Even the Minister of justice and the chamber of Commerce convinced them of their “peace project in the war country.”


Arleth welcomes new guests

©Marie Tihon

“in the Meantime, we care for 33,000 prisoners in the country. We offer therapies, training. This Restaurant deserves the money for all of them. There is great interest in the idea from all over the world, including Europe.”

It no longer comes to Work. It goes to the even more important question: Can a prison make inmates better people?

The search for answers leads to the interior of the women’s prison. The next day, Isabel is taking in the rest of the Afternoon, time for a Tour. The first layer just came in for your service. 14 women work at the same time in the Interno, since 2016, more than 60, most have been for good behavior early release. They prepare the menus, chilling the champagne and the wine from Chile, you have in the kitchen, access to knives and alcohol.

But has no need of this freedom ever miss.

class system

Isabel is not wearing prisoner clothes, but sandals and a black T-Shirt with the inscription: “I believe in a second Chance.” The white hair has bound to the bun. About your red glasses, she looks at the screen of your laptop. It acts as a Manager. The women earn 230 Euro, the official minimum wage, ten times more than other prisoners for chord work.

“I am since 1999 in the prison,” says Isabel. “It’s true, I have taken the law into their own hands, but I have asked the victims for forgiveness. I work here my debt.”

she speaks with a gentle voice, but in clear sentences. “Interno is our only hope. Here you are not thinking of jail. Here, we are family. Here we learn for life. Each wants to join. The work gives us Dignity. It’s a better climate, less strife since then. Look at it.”


The guards are only decoration. All prisoners working in the Restaurant, can move freely.

©Marie Tihon

Together with the beauty Queen Wendy she goes through the long corridors to her cell. 13 high beds close to each other. After all, you can have beds of a portion of the proceeds and buy a mattress, you slept on the floor. There is only one toilet, no window, hardly any space. Here, in cell 4, the poorly housed most of all, the Poorest. In jail, the class system still prevails.

“I wanted to be in cell 4,” says Isabel. “I want to be with the poor. I’m listening to you. This is better than television. Quite a lot of Drama. And I learn a lot from you: music. Dance. Cook.”

“We can learn a lot from her,” says Wendy. “How a television works. Where other countries are. Physics, Chemistry. She is our Professor.”

“you will teach me the fun stuff. And I give you the boring,” said Isabel, laughing.

step by step

For a brief Moment, it sounds like school. Almost idyllic. But then screams penetrate from one cell to another. Loud Nagging. An addict is going crazy. Isabel needs to convey. She is also something of a mediator.

“life here is hard,” she says at the end of the third day. “The severe fates of the women. The Abuse. The sexual services.” Here more than 2000 years in prison to sit together. Not disappear, just because of the Interno.

most of The must field, the Director of the Interno, Luz Adriana Díaz, 43. She is the good soul. Are The Council. Comfort. Kids. It acts like a girlfriend.

“no, I’m the Boss here,” she says. “I’m the COP.”

Diaz is wearing a black blouse and on the legs, the Tattoos, the jungle plants of the restaurant wall, as they wanted to take the project through their lives. Previously, she was a TV Director, but soon they realized a lot more sense in your present work. “For me, this is a second Chance. To change lives. To improve the world. For me, they are women. I don’t see them as prisoners, let alone Criminal. They are people with Rights.”


Isabel, Cindy, and Libis to celebrate the end of a working day; Libis is now free.

©Marie Tihon

Diaz rushes as any restaurant Manager through to the room, pays attention to perfection, Timing. An incident there’s never been, no insult, and for this Abusive, and certainly not a kidnapping. “No guest goes out and says: This is the scum of the society. They tend to be more Jobs in prospect for the time after the dismissal.”

If there is a recipe for success for Rehabilitation, then of Affection and discipline, believes Díaz. “I’m very demanding. Many women are overwhelmed with the loneliness of imprisonment, Depression, Stress. You need to have a structure. It is only step by step.”

the First small steps of

And when you are released? They looks now a bit worried. “This is the crucial question. We prepare you well for it. Give training courses, certificates, get Jobs, take care of you further out. But the big step, you can master alone.”

Like on demand Libis Álvarez appears, 32, freshly released from prison, a prettybsche woman with long dark Curls. “I formed”, says Isabel proud.


In the vegetable garden, the responsible women have a break in the shade

©Marie Tihon

Libis was imprisoned for five years because she had collected for her husband extortion money. In the Interno by you of delivery of all the stations of the training: a cook, a waitress, a seamstress. Due to good behavior she got out early and because they had testified against their man. Now she works for the Designer Hernán Zajar.

In her Hand she holds Jackie, your new life partner, a beefy woman with short hair. They are both free, and still come daily to Interno. Libis visited the old PAL on the inside. Jackie has been looking even a Job in jail, she is the chef. “In the past, I was able to make just a Fried egg. In the meantime, cooking is my passion. I can do everything: Ceviche, lobster. Wholemeal-cooking, Italian.”

Jackie was in jail for five years. As a member of a Gang she had been involved in protection money pressings. In detention, she suffered from depression, to Libis and the Interno helped her step for step. A day after the other.

donations from the star-reader for the project directs the Foundation’s star:

Foundation star – help for people e. V.

IBAN DE90 2007 0000 0469 9500 01



“Colombia”; www.stiftungstern.de

“The Interno my home was. Finally, I wanted to get out,” she says.

on The way home to Libis and Jackie leads in the periphery of Cartagena, a city that is so divided hermetically in the Poor and the rich like no other on the continent. There, they live in a small hut on a hill, where you have no history. You lead a simple life: grow vegetables, save money, buy a refrigerator. The first small steps on a new path.


Soon, want to get Jackie your 15-year-old son, who has lived with her mother. Then you want to rent a house in the center. And there is a business to sell designer bags. From the training you have done a Job and the Job of a business idea.

So, the Rehabilitation must have been meant to be. You have only one condition for your future: you must be in the vicinity of the Interno, in the women’s prison in San Diego.

began Where her happiness.


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