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Pope Francis' blessing for prison inmates in Bolivia

By Staff Reporter

Pope Francis visited a notoriously violent and overcrowded prison yesterday in a dramatic ending to his visit to Bolivia.

He clasped inmates' hands in the mixed Palmasola prison and kissed their children. "Don't be afraid to help one another," he told them. "The devil is looking for rivalry, division, gangs."

Prisoners have the run of the jail where drugs are cheaper than on the street.

Francis has frequently spoken out about the plight of prisoners, denouncing the widespread abuse of pre-trial detention and calling life sentences a "hidden death penalty".

Palmasola is the most notorious of Bolivia's 32 prisons, built to detain 800 people but housing 5,000.

Francis is urging the prisoners to not despair.

He has called solitary confinement a "form of torture", and said solitary and the death penalty should be abolished.

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