Traces of Freedom

Traces of Freedom


Trazos de Libertad is a project developed by the artist and ex-prison guard Carlos Rojas and the Casa Tres Patios Foundation that addresses the social reintegration of inmates in penitentiary centers through the appropriation of artistic techniques and the dialogues that may arise in the approach to art.


This is in the absence of alternative training processes that aim to enhance technical skills and generate dialogues around issues that are important in the reintegration and empowerment of those deprived of liberty in prisons in Colombia. The project provides inmates with tools to capture their narratives through the visual arts and express their ideas and emotions in creative and non-violent ways. It is understood that artistic creation in complex contexts such as prisons can contribute to the strengthening of self-esteem, collaborative work between participants, the exploration of alternative life references and the motivation to develop new ways of inhabiting the prison system .


The challenges faced by inmates in their reintegration processes into civil society are reflected in the number of repeat offenders offered by the INPEC (2020), according to which the population that has returned to the prison system is 16,482 (21,34%). Added to this is the difficult situation of overcrowding in prisons, a value that reaches 29.1%, that is, an overpopulation of 23,557 individuals.






  • Improve the socio-emotional and technical skills of prisoners in the Pedregal, Bellavista and Itagüí prisons through artistic practices and the management of economic opportunities.




  • Raise positive references and narratives and life skills that allow reintegration into society and improve relationships and behavior within the prison institution.

  • Train inmates in artistic techniques that can serve as tools of expression for their reintegration into society and the acquisition of work.

  • Manage personal and work opportunities for the post-convicts through strategic alliances with organizations from the first, second and third sectors and training for work.




  • Project beneficiaries: 200 inmates from the Bellavista, Itagüí and Pedregal penitentiaries. The number of beneficiaries may vary according to the financing resources available.

  • Bellavista: 70 men

  • Itagüí: 65 men

  • Pedregal: 65 women






In September 2012, those deprived of liberty held in medium security patios were summoned to participate in drawing, painting and clay modeling workshops that will be taught by students in Plastic Arts of the University Foundation Fine Arts (FUBA).


For this call, a total of 18 prisoners attended for six months who received knowledge in the different workshops proposed in the first meeting, these workshops were dictated by the students: Juan Pablo Echavarría, Alexandra Cossio and Carlos Rojas who concluded with an exhibition of the work carried out during this time, inside the jail. This work, which filled those of us who carried out these workshops at the time with satisfaction, was the impulse that generated the desire to dictate permanent workshops in favor of the resocialization of personnel deprived of liberty.


After almost four years, in February 2016, a call was made in the medium security and justice and peace pavilions (patios 3,4,5 and 6) for those who had the interest to participate in drawing and painting workshops, this call was attended a little more than twenty interns who showed their interest in participating. In the second meeting only four arrived, perhaps the enthusiasm and desire of these four participants gave me strength to continue with my dream, a dream that began in a room located inside the prison used by ZENA, which was lent to me by afternoons, three days a week.


As the days go by, the interest and participation of other inmates begins to increase, attracted by the desire to learn to draw. At first they perform basic drawing exercises that allow them to learn the technique. The group begins to grow and the space we occupy becomes small, the need arises to locate a new place for this practice, I find an abandoned space in a semi-external area of ​​the prison, where years ago it was used for the manufacture of candles and mops. With the authorization of the Director Captain Erazo, I have access to a part of this space that allows us to increase the number of participants.


Simultaneously and at the request of inmate José Luis Mejía who was confined in patio # 2, being the only high security pavilion in the establishment, he requested that the drawing and painting classes that had been carried out in the common and JP pavilions, could be taken to said ward, since, due to the infrastructure and high security profile of this ward, many of the activities almost never reach these people who are held there. The reception was very good in this place, reaching a little more than twenty people, the space was reduced therefore the practice of drawing was difficult, seeing the need to move to a more suitable place to continue with this process, it was decided to request the displacement to the place where they worked with the other group, it was difficult to obtain authorization due to the profile of the inmates and the category of the courtyard, the internal regulations do not allow them to be transferred to a semi-external area. By means of a written request and an intense and extensive dialogue with Captain Erazo, he authorized the transfer on Wednesdays and Fridays under my responsibility.


At this time a project is necessary not only to teach drawing and painting classes but also where other artistic activities converge such as: sculpture, theater, music, literature etc. This idea that at first did not have very high pretensions, but as time passes the interests of those deprived of liberty by other disciplines and through observation and monitoring day by day I find the change in people's behavior who attend the workshops, I also understand that in the prisons there are human beings that the only thing that differentiates us is the condition and the uniform, human beings who demand a second chance, and perhaps find it in a project like "TRAZOS DE LIBERTAD" . Where people who have committed different crimes without exclusion and without any kind of recrimination converge, since this space is a space for intellectual freedom, bars do not exist in the mind of the human being. Being the human being the reason for being of this project, not the crime, not the institution, only the re-socialization of it.


After a while and with the need to open new quotas, the management chooses to use the space that some deprived of liberty used in musical practice, such as cells, the need to relocate this activity is generated and thus, not allow the disappearance. This for me becomes the great opportunity to bring music to the project “Trazos de Libertad”. The news of the closure of the place where food was prepared for the intern staff and of relocating it to the place where we held the workshops, while it was being adapted. At first I receive it as bad news, this causes the search and conquest of new spaces that were abandoned and unused for many years. After a few months, the space was returned to us, a new idea emerged, the idea of ​​creating the first exhibition hall within a prison center at the level of any exhibition hall in the country and the first cultural center where activities such as : drawing, painting, sculpture, theater, poetry, literature among others.


Thus it was, as “trazos de Libertad” in September 2017 I inaugurated the showroom that bears my name, at the initiative of the people who, with the support, collaboration, dedication, sacrifice and responsibility made a dream come true that today is pride: of their families, of them, of the EPC La Paz, of INPEC and my personal satisfaction since it was demonstrated that artistic practice generates changes from within people and can be a means for the true re-socialization of personnel deprived of liberty .


It began with four people receiving drawing classes, there are already 60 prisoners who are transforming their lives with artistic practices (music, theater, painting, sculpture, audiovisuals, literature, etc.)





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Casa Tres Patios, Carrera 50A #63-31, Barrio Prado, Medellín, Colombia, T. +57 4 571 7798,