Portraits Of Gang Members In A El Salvadoran Prison Too Dangerous For The Wardens To Enter

November 2, 2017 | 8 Comments » | Topics: Interesting

In El Salvador, in a prison guarded by the army, Adam Hinton photographed the most dangerous of the 2,600 inmates – the men who control the prison, because the guards are too scared to enter.

Not many photographers get the chance to enter a prison guarded by an army, let alone shoot inside one.

But Adam Hinton managed it, travelling to El Salvador, the most densely populated country in Central America, and gaining access to one of the world’s most dangerous gangs.

Hinton’s photobook MS-13, published this month by Paul Belford, gathers 22 photographs, primarily portraits of members of the gang La Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13).

Each were serving 20 to 40-year sentences in Penal de Ciudad Barrios, a prison with 26,000 inmates – it was built for 800 – and the final destination for the vast majority of convicted MS-13 members.

Most of the men have tattoos curling about their torsos. In several, ink creep up over their foreheads. The illustrations show past demons, women they love, expressions of loyalty MS-13. 

“The tattoos talk about relationships and people that they’ve killed,” says Hinton. “They tell a story. It’s like a decoration and a sense of identity. They are marking themselves heavily, saying: ‘We are here and don’t belong anywhere else and this is what I do and I’m prepared to kill you, or be killed for this gang.’”

El Salvador has one of the highest homicide rates in the world, with 4,000 murders this year. Gang culture is rife; just last month, gangs forced a bus strike and killed seven drivers. There are an estimated 70,000 active gang members in El Salvador according to the BBC, and approximately 12,000 of them are behind bars.

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  • Josh Gordon

    “We are here and don’t belong anywhere else and this is what I do and I’m prepared to kill you, or be killed for this gang.’”

    Da fuck these gang bangers still alive for? Several solutions here, mass execution bring in some snipers and start shooting fish in a barrel, drop a moab on the prison, or just set the place on fire either way you will have made the world a better place.

    • Louie

      The sooner the better! My vote is for the MOAB! Id also like to see this live streamed…

    • shooter27

      Josh Gordon for President.

      • Josh Gordon

        Shit thanks man your to kind. First order of business blast that prison into a smoking crater. Close over 10 government departments that dont do jack fuck. Speed up the appeal process for death row, start executing child molestors as well as murderers and bangers. Bring our boys home from the middle east. Stop immigration for a few years. Put a stop to ALL foreign aid and start feeding our homeless veterans and getting them homes and jobs. Throw Obamacare in the trash, health insurance is NOT a right its not our job to make sure you flourish thats your responsibility. Drop the hammer on government waste of taxpayer funds. Start throwing CEOs and business owners in prison for shit like banking with cartels and terrorist groups as well as hiring illegal labor.

        Do away with the two party system too, thats total bullshit aint no founding father thrilled about that prospect.

        “There is nothing which I dread so much as a division
        of the republic into two great parties, each arranged under its leader,
        and concerting measures in opposition to each other. This, in my
        humble apprehension, is to be dreaded as the greatest political evil
        under our Constitution.”

        — John Adams, Letter to Jonathan Jackson (2 October 1780)

    • Jimmy Rustled

      best think to do with lifers is have a contest in stadium, million dollar prize to last inmate standing, non projectile weapons provided.. freedom on condition that next arrest for ANYTHING results in death penalty, sell tv rights and make money on it, voluntary of course

  • Timore

    Every single one of them has despair in their eyes