Just Sociology

Tucumbu Prison: Paraguay’s Infamous Center of Social Control

Tucumbu Prison in Paraguay is one of the most infamous and challenging correctional facilities in the world. It has become well-known due to the exceptional difficulties faced by both the prisoners and the staff.

This article will examine some of the underlying theories which could explain why Tucumbu is in such a critical state of disrepair. This research will discuss the reasons why it is overcrowded, underfunded, and how it became one of the most dangerous prisons in the world.

Additionally, this article will analyze the documentary series on Tucumbu, which was produced by Netflix, in which the current situation was highlighted.

Tucumbu Prison in Paraguay

Overcrowding and underfunding

Tucumbu prison is severely overcrowded with approximately 4,000 inmates held in facilities that are supposed to house half that number. This overcrowding contributes significantly to the prison’s precarious condition.

The ratio of inmates to staff members is incredibly high, resulting in extremely hazardous and inhumane conditions that threaten the safety of both inmates and personnel. Additionally, Tucumbu prison is underfunded, which contributes to the maintenance of a dangerous environment.

The prison cannot hire the number of staff necessary to maintain hygiene, sanitation, and security.

Netflix documentary series

Netflix recently launched a new series called ‘Inside the World’s Toughest Prisons,’ which highlighted Tucumbu prison. The program took a close look specifically at the experiences of two prisoners and presented the living conditions within the facility.

The series examined the dangers, difficulties, and abuses faced by both prisoners and staff members in Tucumbu. The program was a significant success and helped to bring even more attention to the prison’s tragic situation.

Three zones within the prison

Tucumbu prison is designed with three different zones. The first zone is managed by the Catholic Church, which provides religious and educational services to prisoners.

The second zone is home to drug addicts and offers rehabilitation programs, and the third zone is used as an enterprise region, where businesses are managed by prisoners. These zones were initially designed to improve the rehabilitation and recover of prisoners; however, they have resulted in the overcrowding of the prison.

Prison Structure

Rules and jobs for prisoners

The prison structure at Tucumbu has strict rules for prisoners, including mandatory education and vocational training. Inmates can acquire jobs within the prison’s sectors, including working in the kitchen, cleaning and maintenance, and bookbinding.

These jobs pay a small amount of money, which prisoners can use to purchase additional food, clothing, and medicine. The vocational training provided to prisoners is beneficial for their reintroduction back into society once they are released.

Business in prison

In Tucumbu prison, businesses are managed and run by inmates. These businesses include restaurants, barbershops, tattoo parlors, and laundry facilities.

Inmates who run these businesses not only earn additional income, but they also develop vital entrepreneurial skills that can help them secure future employment opportunities. However, these businesses can also lead to dangerous situations, such as smuggling drugs or weapons.

Freedom for prisoners

The penal system in Paraguay is more focused on rehabilitation and education rather than punishment. This liberal approach to rehabilitation means that prisoners can maintain some level of freedom.

For example, the prisoners at Tucumbu can participate in outdoor activities, earn their freedom, and stay with their relatives outside of the prison during the day. This approach aims to reduce recidivism rates.


Tucumbu prison in Paraguay faces a range of issues, including overcrowding, underfunding, and dangerous living conditions. The prison’s structure, focusing on the rehabilitation and education of prisoners rather than punishment, is a unique take, but there is still much more work that needs to be done in correcting the challenges faced by the facility.

Through education and vocational training, and by offering prisoners the opportunity to run their businesses and pursue personal growth, Tucumbu prison can help support prisoners in their progression out of the prison system and into society as productive people. Moreover, the partnership with the Catholic Church has provided faith-based support, but it will be beneficial to join hands with other organizations to improve the condition of the facility.

Relevance to A-level Sociology

Social control topic

The social control topic of Crime and Deviance is an essential element of A-level Sociology. One way to explore this topic is to consider how different societies attempt to control deviant and criminal behavior.

The Tucumbu prison in Paraguay is an interesting case study for this topic as it is a prime example of extreme social control measures. The prison is overcrowded and underfunded, which means that the staff is bad, and the facilities are inadequate.

The extreme prison conditions serve as a strict form of social control over prisoners. Through these conditions, it creates an environment that is so unpleasant and dangerous that people will think twice before committing any criminal acts, knowing that the likelihood of being sent to a place like Tucumbu is high.

Comparison with UK prisons

It is informative to compare Tucumbu prison with prisons in the United Kingdom to highlight the differences in the social control measures used in different societies. It is crucial to note that the UK has a relatively high incarceration rate, but overcrowding is not as much of an issue within the prisons.

In the UK, the prison facilities are often more humane, provide inmates with better opportunities for rehabilitation and education, and have much lower incidences of physical violence. One significant difference between the prisons is the attitude towards punishment.

The UK tends to favor a punishment system that is seen as more reformative, while Tucumbu uses social control as a way to deter further criminal behavior.

Qualitative research methods

A-level Sociology students can use Tucumbu prison’s documentary series and case study as an example of qualitative research methods. In sociology, qualitative research refers to research that gathers information that is not numerical, such as data that can be collected from observation, interviews, and other non-numerical data-gathering methods.

The documentation provides a detailed examination of many aspects of Tucumbu, including interviews with staff and some prisoners. Through the use of extensive qualitative research methods, the documentary series was able to capture the reality of the living conditions in Tucumbu and enable individuals outside of the Penitentiary to gain insight into the experiences of the prisoners and the working conditions of the staff.


The Tucumbu prison in Paraguay provides an interesting case study for A-level Sociology students, highlighting the important topic of social control. By comparing Tucumbu with UK prisons, students can gain a deeper understanding of the concept of social control and the different measures used to control criminal behavior.

The documentary series of Tucumbu is a valuable tool for illustrating the use of qualitative research methods in sociology, and students can use this as a reference for conducting their own qualitative research in the future. Ultimately, Tucumbu prison is an example of how social control measures can reach different degrees of severity across different societies and how the nature of the prison system can significantly vary in different countries.

In conclusion, the Tucumbu prison in Paraguay provides a sobering case study that illuminates the challenges and complexities of managing correctional facilities. Overcrowding, underfunding, and social control all have profound effects on the prison environment and the people in it.

To combat these problems, rehabilitation and education are important tools, and the use of qualitative research methods and documentary series, such as the one produced by Netflix, can help bring attention to the dire situation. As a result, it is essential to keep a critical eye on the use of social control measure and ensure that prisoners are treated humanely, and offered opportunities for personal growth and development.


1. What is Tucumbu prison, and why is it important?

Tucumbu Prison is a correctional facility located in Paraguay known for its severe overcrowding, underfunding, and high levels of violence. 2.

How does Tucumbu related to A-Level Sociology? Tucumbu can be used as a case study under the topic of social control in A-Level Sociology, highlighting the importance of understanding the measures used to deter deviant and criminal behavior.

3. How is Tucumbu different from UK Prisons?

Tucumbu’s conditions are often described as harsher and more focused on social control measures than UK Prisons, which tend to emphasize rehabilitation, education, and punishment systems. 4.

How can the educational system help reduce recidivism rates? Through education and vocational training, inmates can acquire crucial skills that will help them secure future employment opportunities.

5. How can society help support prisoners during and after their incarceration?

Society can offer prisoners opportunities for rehabilitation, encourage them to develop personal growth, and support their reintegration into society after their release.

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