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Perp Walk to Catwalk for Peru Inmates

October 02, 2005|From Associated Press

LIMA, Peru — It was an elegant beauty pageant lineup -- especially for a Peruvian prison -- where contestants showed poise on the catwalk and patience awaiting sentencing.

As an audience of Peruvian dignitaries applauded, a 24-year-old Thai woman was declared the winner of the annual Miss Spring contest at Santa Monica Women's Prison in Lima.

Like many of her rivals in Thursday night's event, Onuma Chumsri was imprisoned for drug-trafficking in Peru, the world's second-largest producer of cocaine after Colombia.

Reflecting Peru's sluggish legal system, only 133 of Santa Monica's 927 inmates have been sentenced, officials said.

Prison officials said preparation for the contest started two months ago. Entrants were required to maintain good conduct, attend psychotherapy sessions, and participate in some of the prison's permanent workshops, such as cosmetology, drawing, and fabric painting.

"Sex appeal is important but it is not as if we are seeking just the physical aspect but rather the value as a woman; the value of the person is the essence of all of this," said Maria Jaen, director of the prison.

The prisoners themselves chose their representative of their cell areas. Of the 28 semifinalists 11 women were picked for the final, including five foreigners from Thailand, Belgium, Bolivia and Mexico.

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