44jaja: Humor behind bars


One of the most touching projects I have ever been involved with. In 2006 Emanuel Rodríguez and I directed a humor writing workshop at a male prison in Córdoba, Argentina. 44jaja is the outcome of the experience: a humor magazine comprising all the content produced by prisoners and a handful of famous Argentine comedians who decided to support the project.

The workshop was possible because Diego Barrionuevo, Griselda de Elejalde, Fernanda Juárez, Jimena Montoya and Pablo Natta were teaching a journalism course inside the prison and invited us to expand it through humor.

Back in 2006 Emanuel and I worked at the newsroom of La Voz del Interior and had a passion for socially engaged journalism. As we wrote in the editorial: “Why in jail and why with prisoners? Maybe because jails usually fail at reintegrating them into society. Maybe because us who live outside jail are imprisoned by our own prejudices and clichés. And, finally, because maybe what we can do to deal with that reality is to offer what we have: a passion for writing, a desire to help others to write and have access to publishing. That was our proposal to the group of 16 prisoners who attended that first Thursday in June to see what this was all about. From the first meeting we took pieces of paper with some loose phrases. From the last one, tons of papers filled with words and stories…”.

The project was both successful and controversial. Above all, it was incredibly rewarding to all of those involved with it. Read the complete editorial and download the magazine here!

In the media

The prisoners who took part in the project were:

Ángel Corazza
Darío Gutierrez
El Viejo Pata
El Mákina
Fernando “El caminante” Guidi
Fernando Quevedo
Israel Hanan
Juan C. Díaz
Juan Matías Ontivero
Julio César Ortega
Julio Ramón Tisera
Julio Ferreyra
Norberto Adrober
Pedro Burgos
Rodolfo “Azul” Castro
Rubén O. Gayozo
Víctor Hugo Ramírez

Comedians who collaborated
CaloiCrist, Tute, Salas and Fontanarrosa

Journalism workshop
Diego Barrionuevo, Griselda de Elejalde, Fernanda Juárez, Jimena Montoya,  Pablo Natta.

More about 44jaja can be read, in Spanish, on this blog.

About Mara Balestrini

Mara Balestrini is Human Computer Interaction (HCI) expert and technology strategist.

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