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Sat Jun 7, 2014, 01:37 AM

Pablo Escobar’s Private Prison Is Now Run by Monks for Senior Citizens


Pablo Escobar’s Private Prison Is Now Run by Monks for Senior Citizens

In exchange for his surrender, the top Colombian drug lord was allowed to build his jail—complete with a disco, jacuzzi, and waterfall. Now 23 years later, it's a home for the elderly.

The road begins at the southern edge of town. It slithers its way up into the perfect green mountains surrounding the red brick metropolis of Medellín. Partly gravel, the road is so steep at times that the wheels of our Chevy 4x4 spin out beneath us.

As we continue our ascent, I consider the bizarre assortment of people who, over the past 25 years, have made the journey before me: the imprisoned drug lords, mass-murderers and street thugs, the politicians both noble and corrupt, the soccer superstars, beauty queens and prostitutes, the military brigades and would-be fortune hunters, the hermetic monks, religious pilgrims, and, as of recently, the low-income senior citizens.

I have arranged a meeting with Brother Davide—one of two monks who live at The Cathedral full time. But when I arrive at the entrance, the timid gatekeeper tells me—without explanation—that I can no longer speak with him. I am left to explore the grounds unsupervised, armed with nothing more than some archival photos and a rudimentary map of the old prison that I found online. With little of the original structure still standing, I find it quite difficult to get my bearings. With me is David Graff, a German journalist and guide at Palenque Tours in Colombia, who is acting as my translator.


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