September 2011—I wanted to get inside a prison to see what it was really like. “The degree of civilization in a society can be judged by entering its prisons,” wrote Fyodor Dostoevsky in The House of the Dead. Hubris aside, getting inside a penitentiary would allow me to say I’d done it and tick another he-man foreign correspondent box. It would satiate my curiosity, my desire for new experiences and, ultimately, my young, naïve and gung-ho nature. It would also give me a better understanding of Venezuela.