During his confinement, Sánchez said, he shared an 86-square-foot (8-square-meter) jail cell with 12 other prisoners. The cell, he described, had three walls with tiny windows near the ceiling, bars on the front, and a toilet with running water only once a day. “If we wanted to have water the whole day, we had to store the water in our own buckets,” he said.
The irregular water service along with a lack of cleaning supplies severely affected the prisoners’ health, the journalist said: “Detainees, including me, were diagnosed many times with severe, chronic diarrhea and parasites.” At one point, it was so bad the state health agency had to be called in, Sánchez said.
Some of the detainees sharing Sánchez’s jail cell had committed
murder and other serious crimes. Sánchez himself was in prison for “social
dangerousness,” a vague charge in
The journalist explained that dangerous criminals regularly act as agents for local authorities in prison by monitoring and harassing journalists and political prisoners. He said they would make up rumors or provoke fights—he was once beaten.
Despite all the obvious difficulties of his situation, Sánchez decided to keep his profession on track while in jail. “I committed myself to reporting on prison conditions and slipping shorts stories into my family’s and friends’ hands during visiting hours,” he said.
An original 2007 four-year conviction was later reduced to three years. But even after three years incarcerated, Sánchez remains firmly committed to his work: “I would prefer to continue reporting and writing about current affairs on the island, including human rights violations by the Cuban government,” he said to Miami-based Radio Martí the day after the release.
Twenty-one journalists remain
in jail in