Prison Imperialism

US funded and designed “El Pozo 1”, Santa Barbara, Honduras

The United States is spreading its model of mass incarceration around the world. The US government is involved in the prison systems of at least 40 different countries, mainly to majority non-white and “developing” nations. These programs involve the construction of new prisons, prison guard training, accreditation, data management, and overall design. Common features of prisons structured on the U.S. model include systemic overcrowding, neglect of health care, the use of torture and extreme and punitive isolation, transfer of prisoners far away from their families and communities, severe restrictions on visits including by their legal defenders, and prison militarization in different forms. Funding is provided mainly as a part of the “War on Drugs”. These programs began in 2000 when the US Embassy in Colombia signed a cooperation agreement with Colombia’s Ministry of the Interior.

The Alliance for Global Justice calls these international incarceration programs Prison Imperialism. We use that phrase because it is a US model that we are exporting around the world that contributes to rising incarceration rates and inhumane conditions for prisoners. More so, we recognize that Prison Imperialism along with foreign occupations and military bases, police and border militarization, neoliberal economics and subsequent austerity measures, media manipulation and intimidation, are all part of the infrastructure of empire.

Prisoners of La Tramacúa try to rest despite extreme overcrowding

We call for an end to US international prison progams and the release of all Prisoners of Empire. For more information, contact James Patrick Jordan at [email protected] or or check out What is Prison Imperialism?

Click HERE to see a list of US Political Prisoners who are Prisoners of Empire.


  • One of our first campaigns was for the liberation of Liliany Obando, a Colombian labor and human rights defender who was jailed for three years and eight months on the vague charge of “rebellion” at Bogotá’s Buen Pastor Women’s Prison. AfGJ led the US campaign for her release. We also produced a play (that you can watch here) based on writings of Liliany and of other political prisoners at Buen Pastor.
  • Colombian human rights defender David Ravelo was released from prison after seven years of being held on false murder charges. AfGJ was an active part of the international advocacy on his behalf.
  • AfGJ worked hard for the liberation of Hubert Ballesteros, a member of the executive committee of the Fensuagro agricultural workers union, and one of Colombia’s most important labor leaders. Hubert was arrested for “rebellion” while leading the national agricultural strike of 2013 and spent almost three and a half years in jail.
  • AfGJ, along with Alianza Indígena (Indigenous Alliance Without Borders), helped gain the freedom of Yaqui political prisoners Mario Luna and Fernando Jiménez, who were jailed for over a year in the Mexican state of Sonora for their defense of the Rio Yaqui. These water defenders are leaders of the struggle against the deviation of huge volumes of the river’s water to meet the needs of free trade industrial zones in the capital city of Hermosillo.
  • AfGJ organized email campaigns and a day of national solidarity with Mexico’s CNTE teachers union after the massacre at Nochixtlan in June, 2016. A central part of this struggle was successfully demanding the liberty of Francisco Nuñez and Victor Villalobos and all teachers union leaders who were being held in US funded and advised prisons in Mexico.
  • The Honduras Solidarity Network, of which AfGJ is a co-founder, organized the successful US and Canadian campaign against the detention of a dozen Honduran democracy activists who were arrested after the electoral fraud of 2017, and especially for the release of social movement leader Edwin Espinal.
  • While the campaign to close the infamous US-funded La Tramacúa prison in Colombia is still far from won, our ongoing struggle has had several partial wins. We were able to gain access to the prison to expose bad conditions there. We were part of a campaign that was able to secure at least some medical attention for 73 prisoners at various Colombian prisons – mostly at La Tramacúa. Our efforts combined with others achieved an increase in the availability of fresh water from around 10 minutes a day to 20.
  • AfGJ and the People’s Human Rights Observatory, have mounted campaigns, including two demonstrations at the US embassy in Bogotá and a press conference outside a jail in Cali, that helped force the Colombian government to honor commitments and release political prisoners who were still incarcerated in violation of the peace accords. Unfortunately, there still remain around 300 eligible political prisoners behind bars.

Click here to see our archives of Prison Imperialism articles and interviews

Following is a list of selected articles that provide a broad overview of the history of Prison Imperialism and the ongoing struggle against it:

La Tramacúa: Colombia’s Abu Ghraib

The “New Penitentiary Culture”: US Designs for Colombian Jails

A Visit Inside Colombia’s Most Notorious Prison, La Tramacúa

USA’s Prison Industrial Complex Moves South of the Border

U.S.’s Prison Imperialism In The Outskirts of the Empire

“I can’t even write to the judges” – Ricardo Palmera/Simón Trinidad, Colombian Prisoner of War in US Supermax Prison

Empire of Prisons: How the United States is Spreading Mass Incarceration around the World

Truthout Report: How the US Imposes the Worst of its Prison Paradigm Abroad

Human Rights and the Global Prison

What is Prison Imperialism?

Prisoners of Empire

Political Prisoners in the USA

Solidarity with the Striking Prisoners of Colombia and North America – No More Prison Imperialism!