Making Do: The Practice of Imprisonment in Postwar Guatemala

Abstract / Resumen / Resumo

Postwar Guatemala’s penitentiary system faces dilapidated infrastructure and extreme budgetary constraints. Because wartime efforts at law and order often disappeared people rather than sentencing them, the very practice of imprisonment itself is quite new in the region. With an eye to escalating levels of violence, this article opens an empirical window into the practice of imprisonment in postwar Guatemala. Flagging the improvisational nature of incarceration, what this article calls the practice of “making do,” we detail the diversity of built forms used to imprison people. Those forms include a state-run prison farm; high profile prisoner cells; an extrajudicial police detention center; and a private drug rehabilitation center. By illustrating the manifold carceral spaces in Guatemala, this article impresses the importance of expanding notions of detention beyond the prison proper while also reflecting on the political implications of these contexts.