Our highlight during our time in La Paz was without a doubt, meeting Crazy Dave. Every day at 1pm, show up to Sucre Plaza aka San Pedro Plaza which is the main square located at the front of San Pedro Prison to meet Crazy Dave and listen to his story about how he ended up in San Pedro Prison and his life inside its walls. You won’t need to look very hard, as he will likely find you if you are sitting in the square at 1pm.
San Pedro Prison has a reputation for being one of the most dangerous prison’s in the world. At one stage, they used to allow tourists to tour the prison however it became a major problem when they couldn’t get out or worse would be hurt or raped inside the prison.
Crazy Dave’s story starts in his home town of New York where he describes a place filled with crack house after crack house. He has a wife and two kids, a third on the way but turns out the 3rd boy named Chris wasn’t Crazy Dave’s child at all but looked more like Jose who frequented his house.
Crazy Dave had a boss, Tony who gave him a chance to make 30k for a trip down to Bolivia to return with some “snow white” as he called it. He had 2k spending money for his time in La Paz which he says was mostly spent on sex and cocaine.
When it was time to return to the USA with 2.5kg of cocaine, things didn’t quite go to plan and long story short, he ended up in San Pedro Prison for 16 years. The life he describes inside the prison is like no other prison stories you would ever expect to hear.
He describes a hierarchy and political system inside the prison where you can buy or rent a cell. The quality of cell depends on how much you are willing to spend but it can have anything or everything you want inside. You can also have your family come and live with you in San Pedro Prison. They are allowed in and out as they please – for school or work or whatever other bidding is required of them.
There are full on communities with shops and tradespeople all working to live inside the prison walls. Find yourself a job, and make some money while you are in there. As Crazy Dave told us, he worked for a giant who produced cocaine and sold it for only $3USD a gram inside those prison walls and it was supposedly the best stuff you can find anywhere.
Perhaps the least surprising fact was that Coca Cola has exclusive soft drink rights within the San Pedro Prison walls. Also a huge betting arena inside those walls as each population had a soccer team. If you were good at soccer, you’d be picked up pretty quickly, provided a nice cell, meals, a salary – all from within the confines of those walls. The money that was bet on these games was more than we would see in our lifetimes.
And whilst Crazy Dave is now out and telling his story, he relies on people coming to see him every day to survive. At the end of the tour, he takes the group of eager listeners to a mercado to chip in for some groceries. Knowing himself well enough to not just take the money and blow it on cocaine.
He still lives in La Paz, for what awaits him in the USA is far worse than the life he is living here. If you are looking for a mind blowing way to spend an hour of your time in La Paz, Crazy Dave is worth every second.
P.S. I tried to take a photo of San Pedro Prison, however a Policeman very quickly walked over to me and politely asked me to delete it, stood and watched over me until it was gone, forever.