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All of the approximately 450 boys and men housed at Instituto de Tratamiento y de Aplicación de Medidas para Adolescentes (ITAMA)—a youth prison in Hermosillo, a city in the state of Sonora in northwestern Mexico—were convicted as children. Despite the designation as a youth prison, around 70 percent of those housed at the facility turn 18 during their incarceration.
The photos below come from 10 young men incarcerated at ITAMA from five cities in central, northern and southern Sonora. "The boys decided how to work and what to photograph," photographer Alonso Castillo, who led a 2013 photography workshop with the group, said in an interview with Pete Brook of Prison Photography. Castillo, his partner Carlos Sánchez, and their colleagues made only technical recommendations.
"In a subtle way, these photographs depict these young people for whom we have used the prison to delete their presence and hide them… and we've done so only for our own convenience. These photographs confront us with facts that lay counter to our simplistic thinking."
"Photography for me was like any portrait, like just taking the camera and putting the monkey in the middle and that's it." — Aby, ITAMA Youth.
"All these boys are in the middle of a long learning process and maturation; they experience the same intangible fears as any of us. It is a matter of influencing the values and beliefs they have, rather than corrective measures and punishments."
"After the workshop we had a very modest exhibition in the courtyards of ITAMA, with some family and other visitors. When we worked on that, we processed some film close to the date and we found a picture of the soles of the boys feet. As the exhibition was to be called Desde Adentro (From Within), the boys did a special photo for that—they sat on the floor and wrote the name of the exhibition on the soles of the feet. That was something we were not expecting."
"Being able to take photos made me grow because with each shot I was shaping what I live in here and what my life is." — Cristian, ITAMA Youth.
"I come first of photojournalism, but this area is combined with social justice," Castillo says. "That is, I do believe that our work is for the other. In this case, the two territories are combined with an equal third one that is working with young people who have committed crimes."
"Photography is a memory that stays frozen forever in a simple piece of paper, but that piece of paper paused leaves you a lot, joys, sadness…" — Omar, ITAMA Youth,
"[Photography] is an effective tool to communicate, to visualize and generate impact to social problems. Although it's not a massively used tool for educational purposes, I think no efforts are small and everything we do is important. […] I say it is not a massive tool because although photojournalism represents a broad global distribution circuit, I have the impression that we are producing for ourselves. This phrase I heard a few years ago and I still like it: 'Only photographers know photographers.' We like to publish books that we read, there are contests and scholarships for specialized circle of consumers, who are we and our friends. I think we could expand that circle."
"[Taking photos] helped me to see the photos in a different way and also served as therapy—being in the workshop I felt free to freeze the moment that I wanted." — Heriberto, ITAMA Youth.