Colombia prison holds annual beauty pageant

Prison inmates participate in an annual beauty contest held during the week of festivities to celebrate La Virgen de las Mercedes (Our Lady of Mercy) at El Buen Pastor prison in Bogota 
on Friday, September 21, 2012.

In their skimpy outfits and extravagant headdresses, you could be forgiven for thinking these ladies are getting ready for a local carnival or dance show.

But these images are actually of a fiercely-contested beauty pageant - with one big difference, all the contestants are prison inmates. 

Home to drug dealers, murderers and petty criminals, El Buen Pastor women's prison in Bogota, Colombia, is one of the last places you would expect to see inmates wearing long silk gowns and carefully applied make-up.

But the prison staff have introduced an annual beauty contest as part of a rehabilitation programme.
Some of the inmates were recruited into paramilitary organisations as young as 12 and have never known a normal life.

The prison has nine cellblocks, housing between 100 and 250 women each.
Each block elects one representative to be its candidate for overall beauty queen.

The candidates will spend weeks getting in shape and training for the big day with everyone on their block giving them a helping hand. 

The contest is held every September to honour the Virgin of Mercedes, patron saint of prisons.

Secretary of the Colombian jail and the pageant's co-ordinator Virginia Camacho said: 'The fact that they made a mistake in their lives doesn't mean they aren't allowed to be a human being or feel like a woman.'

And the winner is...:Prison inmate Emma Urdinola, second left, is crowned winner

SOURCE: The Daily Mail, UK, 9/22/2012


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