Rio de Janeiro has a murder rate as high as a war zone—millions of impoverished people here resort to crime for survival. A kid from the favelas of Rio has limited career options: kidnapper, cocaine trafficker, gang leader, robber, or hit man. For many, prison is safer than the streets, and comes with more reliable food and shelter.
Carnaval is one of the hardest times of year for imprisoned Brazilians, as their fellow free citizens pour into the streets in a sea of colorful celebration. In February 2009, I traveled to the notorious Bangu Prison Complex in Rio to photograph the women who live there. I wanted to see how prisoners celebrate such an important national holiday behind bars. I discovered it was quite lonely.
The sound file below was recorded by Jen Osborne. It is the voice of an imprisoned cocaine trafficker singing.