|The Devil's Caldron||Introduction|
Ilha Grande, Big Island, is an unspoiled paradise off the coast of Rio de Janeiro. Waterfalls cascade from jungle covered mountains into a turquoise ocean that surrounds 107 white-sand beaches. Returning several times in my youth, I imagined this was how Brazil looked before its discovery in 1500.
Contrasting with the innocence and tranquility of the island was a prison known as The Devil's Caldron; the place on earth where heaven ended and hell began. It held hundreds of inmates with some of the darkest reputations; and stories of violent deaths, tortures and rapes.
It was inside The Devil's Caldron, during Brazil's military dictatorship, that the government made an historic mistake. Imprisoning militant revolutionaries together with common criminals. A policy which instigated the evolution of the Comando Vermelho - C.V.; the largest criminal organization in Brazil.
After nearly a decade, I returned to Ilha Grande, not to enjoy the beauty of paradise but to share the experience of 600 inmates living inside the Penal Institution of Candido Mendes. My concern was to document the prison before its closure. I had been told that the government wanted to erase the memory of its wretched past by sending the inmates to the mainland and demolishing the heavily deteriorated structure.
I attempted to capture the unguarded dark image of life inside the Devil's Caldron. My hope is to reflect the pain and desolate loneliness inmates felt when serving time - time in a prison surrounded by a paradise that teased them with what was forbidden.
In April of 1994, after eight months of my observation and 53 years of the prison's function, the entire inmate population was transferred off the island and the building demolished.
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