I was doing a story on Venezuela’s prison conditions for a human rights magazine, particularly focusing on an infamous jail in Caracas called El Reten de Catia. I needed to get inside to talk to inmates and see the conditions for myself. I was denied entry by the Ministry of the Interior because they could not guarantee my safety inside the jail. (That gives you an idea of how out-of-control it was.) I don’t recall how, but I found a Filipina nun who went in every week to minister to inmates. She said she would take me in, but I would have to adopt the cover that I was a nun. Fortunately, she did not wear a habit, just jeans and T-shirt. I signed on.
I was certainly glad to get out of the place. It was truly a hellhole that degraded human beings. But I got my story.
Fortunately, a few years later, the jail got demolished as a symbol that the government was going to improve conditions throughout the prison system. They may have improved somewhat, but I doubt they’re adequate.
In addition to being a journalist, you’ve written a non-fiction book, Peace in the Hood: Working with Gang Members to End the Violence. How did that come about?
You are a member of the International Thriller Writers Debut Author Program, what other events and PR do you have planned for your first year as a novelist?
Coming soon: Interview with debut thriller writer, KJ Howe.