Tuesday, May 12, 2009


Yesterday we went to interview a guy whose been in prison since August of 94 for crimes committed during the genocide. We arrived at the prison, and every single thing after that was a first for me. For starters, we went to go speak to the prison warden by just walking right in through an open prison door. There was a gate and a few guys with guns guarding it, and as we walked through I stopped to check in with them and to submit to a search etc, and they all looked at me like I was out of my mind. They said over and over again in French to go right in, just go right in. Waiting and talking to the warden took about twenty, thirty minutes, and in the course of this half-hour I had to go from the prison to our car a bunch of times, and every time I left or walked back into the prison, I would just waltz in and waltz out like I was leaving a friend's house.

At one point, while I was coming back from the car, a huge number of prisoners were returning from their work detail. I stood at the entrance waiting for the prisoners to be checked through the gate and my guide, the prison officials, and the prisoners themselves all started laughing. In their eyes, for me to stand there and wait to be checked in was nothing short of absurd.

The prisoner we interviewed wanted to talk to us outside of the prison, and I went with my guide to request permission from the warden who literally said of course with a gesture alone. And here comes the best part. We talked about where we could go in town where he would feel safe, and we settled on a government building five minutes away. The warden asked me how long it would take to setup the cameras and I said not that long, ten, 15 minutes or so, and he said something about how he didn't want to keep us waiting cause it might take the prisoner a bit long to get to where we're going. And I said I thought it was only five minutes away, and he said, sure five minutes by car, but to walk is much longer. And that's when I said, " WHAT? he's gonna walk there? By himself?" The warden could see I was shocked and I asked, "what if he escapes?" And my guide and the warden just burst out laughing and the warden screamed with laughter and in English, "escape? To where is he gonna go?"

So then the warden tells me if I would be more comfortable, we can just drive him there ourselves. I was dumbfounded. And I'm sure it showed. I think he thought I was worried about transporting a killer in our car so he offered to send a guard with us. I said, look, I need a guard because if we put a prisoner on a tv show just walking around with no guard, no one will ever believe this guy is an actual prisoner. Will the guard be armed? "Sure, if you want him to?"

So then we shot the prisoner and the guard walking out of the prison towards us and the whole time, the prisoner and the guard were laughing their ass off because he's never actually guarded someone, one on one, with a gun, in that way before, and the prisoner had never been guarded in that way either, and so the whole thing was just hysterical to the two of them. At one point, the prisoner and the guard got into a conversation and the prisoner showed the guard what he thought was the most believable way to hold a gun on a prisoner, aka himself.

It was a hell of a day to say the least. There were long conversations about the Rwandan prison system on the way home to say the least. Photos to follow.


Blogger daniel arnold said...


5/12/09, 8:59 PM  
Anonymous David said...

Out of sight. Big-ups here :: http://delicious.com/url/b75b3095ee3d417ece486c8f931a4619

5/13/09, 9:23 AM  
Anonymous jason burczyk said...


5/15/09, 3:51 PM  

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