Abandoned prison in Ecuador bears signs of past

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Abandoned Prison, Ecuador
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Abandoned prison in Ecuador bears signs of past
This April 9, 2015 photo shows the Garcia Moreno Prison, located in the middle of the capital city of Quito, Ecuador. The four-block-long building with numerous wings has been abandoned since September, when the 2,600 prisoners living in a space originally built for just 300 people were transferred to a larger and more modern penitentiary. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows prison cell windows facing an interior courtyard at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. The building’s fate remains undecided, but authorities say one project being looked at would convert the old prison in the heart of the city into a luxury hotel. Another proposal would convert it into a city museum. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 14, 2015 photo shows the view a prisoner had from the window inside his cell, at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. While its high walls separated the prisoners from society outside, they made and respected their own laws, and their own authorities, on the inside. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 16, 2015 photo shows a mural painted by inmates inside the courtyard of the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Psychologist Oscar Ortiz, who worked with the inmates behind these walls, organized local artists to collaborate with the prisoners to adorn the walls with paintings. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
In this April 9, 2015 photo, murals decorate the walls of a cell inside the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. According to tour guides, cell sizes vary, with the smallest being eight square meters (86 square feet), designed to hold two inmates but which actually held up to eight, and the largest cell being 30 square meters (322 square feet) which held as many as 40 people. However, prisoners with money could pay the gangs that controlled daily life inside to give them a cell with just one roommate. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 7, 2015 photo shows a drawing of Po, the character from the Kung Fu Panda animated film, drawn on the door of a cell inside the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Now that this former world has been moved to another place, the time will soon come to erase the stories engraved on these walls. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 14, 2015 photo shows a mural of a prisoner behind bars and a flying dove on the wall inside a courtyard at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Psychologist Oscar Ortiz, who worked with the inmates behind these walls, organized local artists to collaborate with the prisoners to adorn the walls with paintings. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
In this April 14, 2015 photo, a handwritten sign that reads in Spanish "Ordered lunch. Paid lunch. I don't trust" is posted inside a prison cell at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. The prisoner who used this cell sold food and ran a small general store inside, selling items to his fellow inmates. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows a broken guitar left behind in a cell at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Clothes, a guitar and other belongings were left behind by departing inmates who were transferred to a newer facility. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
In this April 9, 2015 photo, a child's shoe hangs in the doorway of a cell at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Tour guides tell the story of a prisoner who in a jealous rage strangled his wife to death and then hung himself in front of their two children during a family visit years ago. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows a gate inside a wing at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. The building’s fate remains undecided, but authorities say one project being looked at would convert the old prison in the heart of the city into a luxury hotel. Another proposal would convert it into a city museum. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows a door openning into a common area inside the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Its cold walls are marked with words and colored murals, written and drawn over 139 years by prisoners ranging from chicken thieves to politicians. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 16, 2015 photo shows the exterior of a cell door covered with the message in Spanish: "No to fake people" at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Rich and poor, good and bad, innocent and guilty, inmates used the walls to record their days. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
In this April 14, 2015 photo, a poster of Jesus hangs in the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. After prisoners were transferred out in September, guides began giving 30 minute tours through the facility where tourists can get a first hand look at the cells where inmates slept, as well as the common areas. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows a jail cell filled with cooking and electronic equipment left behind by prisoners being transferred from the Garcia Moreno Prison to a new facility, in Quito, Ecuador. Also left behind were rapidly scribbled phone numbers and written promises to never return to prison. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows an image of Jesus through a hole in a gate that separates wings of the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. After prisoners were transferred out in September, guides began giving 30 minute tours through the facility where tourists can get a first hand look at the cells where inmates slept and the common areas. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 14, 2015 photo shows a punching bag hanging inside the gym, also reflected in a mirror, at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Prisoner access to the gym was considered a privilege. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
In this April 9, 2015 photo, personal items left behind by transferred prisoners lay by a bathroom floor drain inside a prison cell at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Also left behind were cuttings from newspapers or magazines of pinup girls, clothing, instruments, and images of Jesus Christ. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 7, 2015 photo shows a bust of Eloy Alfaro, who was Ecuador's president from 1897-1901 and again from 1906-1911, behind a jail cell door at the now empty Garcia Moreno prison where he was imprisoned, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Alfaro, one of the jail's most famous inmates who was imprisoned by his successor, was killed in 1912 by a mob of civilians who broke into the jail, dragged his body outside and burned him in a park. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows the bathroom area of a prison cell decorated with pin-up girls and a car at the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. Psychologist Oscar Ortiz, who worked with the inmates behind these walls, says most people believe prison is the worst place, with the worst people. “But I have now lived many years and I have concluded that the prison is simply a reflection of our society.” (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 7, 2015 photo shows the wall of a jail cell covered with drawings and messages inside the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. The Spanish language messages around the drawing encourage people to kill abusive police with a Glock special edition 40 gun. Part of it reads "Brothers. Until death. For the abusive police." (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
This April 9, 2015 photo shows the inside of a jail cell with personal items left behind by inmates who were transferred away from the now empty Garcia Moreno Prison, during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. This cell with two beds was designed to hold just two prisoners, but up to eight people used the room at one time. It measures about eight square meters (86 square feet). (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
In this April 7, 2015 photo, a tourist peers through the door of a jail cell inside the now empty Garcia Moreno prison during a guided tour for the public in Quito, Ecuador. According to tour guides, this cell was nicknamed "Los Polillas," or "The Moths." Here, in a room designed to hold two prisoners, about 15 inmates with drug addictions were locked in overnight by the prison gangs that controlled daily life. The locked-in prisoners were also known to prostitute themselves to get access to drugs. (AP Photo/Dolores Ochoa)
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QUITO, Ecuador (AP) - Its cold walls are marked with words and colored murals, written and drawn over 139 years by prisoners ranging from chicken thieves to politicians. Rich and poor, good and bad, innocent and guilty, inmates used the walls to record their days living in this human storage facility known as the Garcia Moreno Prison.

The four-block-long building with numerous wings has been abandoned since September, when the 2,600 prisoners living in a space originally built for just 300 people were transferred to a larger and more modern penitentiary. But many of the inmates' stories of love, misery, desperation and greed remained behind, scrolled in hallways now strolled by visitors on public tours.

Among the messages and images that remain are rapidly scribbled phone numbers and written promises to never return to prison. There are cuttings from newspapers or magazines of pinup girls, and images of Jesus Christ. Clothes, a guitar and other belongings were left behind by departing inmates. Metal watchbands, keys and used batteries are scattered on the floor of one bathroom.

During its many years, the prison was witness to many uprisings and escape attempts. While its high walls separated the prisoners from society outside, they made and respected their own laws, and their own authorities, on the inside.

One of its most famous inmates was Eloy Alfaro, who was president of Ecuador in 1897-1901 and again in 1906-1911. Alfaro was imprisoned by a successor, then killed by a mob that broke into the prison in what was believed to be a politically motivated attack in 1912.

The cells ranged in size from 8 square meters (86 square feet), housing as many as six or eight inmates at a time, to 30 square meters (322 square feet), accommodating up to 40 people. But a prisoner with money could pay the gangs that controlled daily life inside to give them a cell with just one roommate.

Psychologist Oscar Ortiz, who worked with the inmates behind these walls, says most people believe prison is the worst place, with the worst people. "But I have now lived many years and I have concluded that the prison is simply a reflection of our society."

Now that this former world has been moved to another place, the time will soon come to erase the stories engraved on these walls.

The building's fate remains undecided, but authorities say one project being looked at would convert the old prison in the heart of Quito into a luxury hotel, even though it stands in the middle of impoverished neighborhoods and crowded markets.

Another proposal would convert it into a city museum.

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Dolores Ochoa on Twitter: https://twitter.com/doloresochoar

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Associated Press photographers and photo editors on Twitter: http://apne.ws/15Oo6jo

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