Prisons in Mexico are known as ‘schools of crime,’ but their walls are also home to creativity worthy of the finest fashion houses.

The company Prison Art has introduced a program to recruit prison tattooists to design and craft unique and luxury bags. Inmates who work on the bag designs can earn up to $345 a month.

“It’s satisfying to work with inmates,” said Arantxa Naujokat, a member of Prison Art. 

What is the story behind this project?

In Mexico, people have to prove they are innocent. For example, Cueto Felgueroso [creator of Prison Art] was charged for something he didn’t do. While the legal process took place, he had to stay in jail for 11 months.

During his time in jail, he was working in an arts and crafts workshop. This is where he met very talented tattoo artists and he had the idea of getting a tattoo on a piece of leather and made a wallet out of it.

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What is the main objective of this project?

Inmates in Mexico are outcasts. It’s not easy for them to make money or get a job, so when they don’t succeed, they lose hope and they start to transgress again. The main objective is for these talented people to have a chance, a good job and hope, so they change their mind and keep doing everything the right way.

How do you contact the artists?

There is an invitation system setup within the prisons, so everybody who wants to apply can apply. The more experienced artists make big pieces, while new artists practice and make small pieces.

How much cash can the inmates earn?

Inmates work in their free time. It’s not constant and the money they make depends on how many bags they produce. One artist can make from $400 to $600 per month.

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Do you recommend working with prisoners?

Well, if someone wants to work with prisoners that’s a personal decision. But in my own opinion, I think it’s very satisfying to work with them and to have the opportunity to help them. 

- By Daniel Casillas