The Inmates Have Taken Over

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In her article for Foreign Policy, Sulome Anderson goes inside Roumieh prison -- the largest and most notorious detention center in Lebanon. Built with an official capacity of around 1,400, Roumieh today holds roughly 3,700 inmates who, recently, appear to have taken over the running of the place, as the state increasingly shies away from its administrative responsibilities. Anderson writes that Roumieh has become a sort of microcosm of Lebanon itself: life inside the prison is driven by money and connections, violence makes a frequent appearance, and the state is virtually absent, she says.

"Inside and out, it's the same," one prisoner tells Anderson. "It's all about politics."

Here, through recent pictures from Beirut's The Daily Star and from photographer Ramzi Haidar's April 2006 trip inside the detention center, a look inside the dismal world of Roumieh prison.

Above, prisoners walk down a cell-lined hallway in Roumieh prison.

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Above, smoke rises from Roumieh prison after an inmate riot in September 2012.

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Inmates watch a graduation ceremony at Roumieh prison in September 2012.

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Interior Minister Marwan Charbel and Health Minister Ali Hasan Khalil inspect the prison premises in January 2012.

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A prisoner uses plastic Coca Cola bottles filled with water as dumbells to work out inside his cell.

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A prisoner speaks with his daughter from behind bars during visiting hours.

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Prisoners eat lunch behind glass.

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Prisoners inside a cell. With the right connections and money, televisions, pets, and most of the comforts of home are available.

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Prisoners scrub pots in Roumieh's kitchen.

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A prisoner puts the final touches on a painting in the prison workshop.

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Without connections, life can be a bit more arduous. Here, five prisoners share the same cell.

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Prisoners stroll inside a hall in the prison.

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A prisoner looks through the window of his iron cell door.

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Prisoners sit inside a cell.

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A prisoner gestures from behind bars.

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Prisoners stroll inside the prison yard.

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A Lebanese man arrives to visit a prisoner at Roumieh prison.

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A Lebanese prisoner is pictured in his cell.

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Prisoners get a haircut.

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Prisoners pack bread in the prison kitchen.

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A tatooed inmate.

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A prisoner displays a painting of Jesus Christ made at the prison workshop.

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A prisoner reads the Quran inside his cell.

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