The Apanteos Prison is a mid-security jail for men in Santa Ana, 86 km west of San Salvador, that houses approximately 5,000 men currently incarcerated, though the Prison has a listed capacity of 1,800 men. Apanteos began the “Yo Cambio” (I change) project, which allows opportunities for people living in prison to see a psychologist and learn certain trades. Despite the project, opportunities for rehabilitation are minimal and don’t reach all sectors within the prison. Sector 11, where we have done AVP workshops, holds 500 men who have been isolated from the rest of the population because of their emotional instability.
The prison population in El Salvador increased by 362% between 2000 and 2016 from 7,754 to 35,879 people who are incarcerated. This increase reflects two trends: the mass deportation of people formerly incarcerated in the U.S. back to El Salvador (81,000 people formerly incarcerated were deported to El Salvador between 1998 and 2014) and the adoption of governmental policies (Mano Dura and Super Mano Dura) that allowed increased police power to arrest suspected gang members. The MS13 and Barrio 18 gangs control the penitentiary system in El Salvador.