The path to personal transformation and social reintegration.
Johana Bahamón is a Colombian actress, currently recognized for her activism and advocacy for the rights of incarcerated individuals in the country. Beyond her career in the entertainment industry, Johana has devoted a significant part of her life to social work.
It all began in 2012 when she was invited to an event at “El Buen Pastor” prison in Bogotá, Colombia. There, she asked a woman about the reason for her conviction, and she learned that the woman had killed her husband for sexually assaulting her three-year-old son. This story deeply impacted Johana, leading her to leave acting behind and dedicate herself to helping people in prisons.
Thus, she created the Acción Interna Foundation, a path to reconciliation and resocialization. The foundation provides psychosocial guidance, education, and training to enter the job market, strengthening social skills, and offering training in various fields like gastronomy, sewing, hairdressing, tattoos, advertising, customer service, sales, construction, hospitality, and technology. It also focuses on enhancing productive skills for labor reintegration, supporting entrepreneurship, and generating productive projects within prisons, in addition to providing legal advice to post-sentence and incarcerated individuals.
Thanks to her efforts, the “Second Chances Law” was created, a slogan that represents the essence of her social work. This law aims to create greater access to the job market for post-sentence individuals, individuals under house arrest, or on parole, providing tax benefits, economic incentives, and corporate support for companies that choose to hire this kind of human talent.
Stories of hope: Voices from Colombian prisons.
Johana is the author of the book “Historias privadas de la libertad” (Private Stories of Freedom) (2020), in which she sensitively and empathetically narrates the experiences of incarcerated individuals. These touching stories prompt reflections on redemption and hope for those seeking a second chance to change their lives.
Many individuals have benefited from this foundation and the Second Chances Law. Some who were wrongly convicted of crimes they never committed have managed to regain their freedom and seek justice. Others who did commit offenses have left prison to start businesses or work with dignity. Recently, a group from a prison in Colombia will be certified for the first time in Latin America by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Justice Education Institute, alongside Harvard students.
There are countless stories of resilience, where individuals have emotionally healed from their past and made progress in all aspects of their lives because someone chose to believe in them and give them a fresh start.
A call to society: The importance of supporting reintegration.
According to statistics from the National Penitentiary and Prison Institute (INPEC), there are currently 195,265 incarcerated individuals facing various issues within prisons. Overcrowding is one problem, leading to precarious conditions, lack of space, and inadequate services for inmates. Lack of rehabilitation and reintegration programs further complicates their social and vocational reintegration after serving their sentences, contributing to criminal recidivism and perpetuating the cycle of delinquency, among other human rights violations.
Post-sentence individuals also face stigmatization and social prejudice, resulting in marginalization, exclusion, vulnerability, and limited access to opportunities and basic services. This is why Johana Bahamón and her foundation are a global example of resilience. She has won several awards and distinctions, such as the 2020 Young Global Leader, Forbes’ 50 Powerful Women 2020, and Ten Outstanding Young Person of the World – Toyp International 2020. Most importantly, she has positively impacted the lives of many individuals.
This story urges us to offer second chances, not only for the sake of justice and respect for human rights but also because it can have positive effects on society by reducing criminality and creating a more inclusive and compassionate environment for everyone. Johana states that “we must do something for others, or the life of any human being doesn’t make sense.” We have all made mistakes and needed second chances. It is time to dignify people and believe in them. By doing so, we lay the foundation for a more inclusive and hopeful society, where everyone has the opportunity to overcome their mistakes and contribute positively to the development of the social fabric.