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Belgrade 2018.

What is happening behind bars and closed heavy iron doors of the prison cells? Is it like we used to see at the movies? Or not? Researching daily life of the prisoners at the famous Belgrade County Jail, you can meet and feel energy of the other dimension. Where the piece of sky above the backyard is the only freedom prisoners can see. For a long time. I was making this story almost three years together in cooperation with Belgrade County Jail Treatment service, as a regular activity in the treatment of the prisoners through art…. Belgrade County Jail is the biggest of that type at the Balkans, located couple of miles from Belgrade downtown. Jail include prison section with 300 inmates serving their sentences for various type of crimes. I was making my story at the restricted cell block called “5-1”, were prisoners are locked for 22 hours including two hours they can spend at the fresh air. This story is the first in the history of Serbian photography that showcase prison life without censored details, identities… Real life behind bars, as it is. Igor Čoko, autor

“I spent over twenty years behind bars. Almost half of my life. I can not complain, my life and childhood were good. I had great and careful parents.. But bro, at some moment, in my teenage years, street took me away... And now, here we are, speaking in my cell... I ve change a lot of prisons. I ve been to Zabela prison, Sremska Mitrovica prison, I ve been to some foreingn prisons too... Living life on my own, I have to say that prison saved me twice. Once, when I got wild with weapons, second time when I made some shit being a street drug dealer... Soon, I m getting out and leaving this way of life behind... After all of these years, being here now in Belgrade County Jail, I feel like on vacation, beleive me. Here’ s like you live in one street and know whole neighbourhood. And finaly, I have a good treatment.”

“You asked me about the scars I wear on my skin? Well it’s a reminder of my first arrival to this prison. I cut myself then, pretty nasty. Then I made some tattoos to cover the scars... Tattoing in prison is illegal. And it’s a kind of resistance against the system, both here in prison and outside. And it’s a status issue among us. There is a hierarchy, you strictly know who is the main for tattoing, what are the meanings of some tatooes. When we get out of prison, it’s so easy to recognise each other, because there is a lot of difference between prison and saloon made tatooes. And when we get out, we want to show that we are not ashamed of who we are, since the society treats us with a lot of prejudies...”

“You gotta three types of serving a sentence. Growing your muscles at the gym, chilling out with meth therapy, or getting a job. And this is the best option. Bro, you gotta occupation at first, you are spending time in a quality way, learning new stuff to do. It could be useful outside. You feel like you have a point, spending days here. Then, there is a different status amng other inmates. They know you’ re trying hard, and you‘ re not a snitch... I had a long sentences before I came to this prison, but, the only one and real sentence is the one with honour...”

Realised by: Republic of Serbia, Ministry of Justice Administration for the execution of criminal sanctions Belgrade County Jail

Igor Čoko “Living behind bars” Number of pages: 60 monochrome Photographs: 50 Photographs were taken between 2014 and 2017. The inmates signed their approval for their identities to be used for the book purpose only, as well as for the promotion of the book through exhibitions and media presentations according to Personal Data Protection law. Photographs published in this release are not allowed to be used for any other purpose, and without a permission of Administration for the execution of criminal sanctions. Belgrade, January 2018. ABOUT AUTHOR: Igor Čoko was born in Knin, Croatia in 1975. He holds a degree in Ethnology and Anthropology. In his role of visual anthropologist, he uses his camera to capture and explore the sensibility of the street life, its people and life of stigmatized social groups. His photographs are published in leading magazines and newspapers from former Yugoslavia states and Europe.

Belgrade, 2018. copyright: Igor Čoko / Belgrade County Jail Digital issue

Living Behind Bars  

What is happening behind bars and closed heavy iron doors of the prison cells? Is it like we used to see at the movies? Or not? Researching...

Living Behind Bars  

What is happening behind bars and closed heavy iron doors of the prison cells? Is it like we used to see at the movies? Or not? Researching...