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One of MS-13's most secure territories is a prison in El Salvador—where gang members call the shots. En route to the prison, Lisa and her crew received a call informing them that prisoners were planning to hold her hostage. The trip was cancelled, but days later Lisa returned to ask inmates about the kidnapping plot.

Prison officials told Lisa that they'd let her in—but she'd have to talk to the gang members inside to make sure they would let her out. After hours of negotiating with inmates, Lisa interviewed one man who insisted the stories about prisoners planning to harm her were only rumors—the proof, he points out, is the fact that she's "still breathing."

The inmates acknowledge they could easily kidnap her if they wanted to, but they deny that such a plan ever existed. "You have people around you [who] are never, never going to get out of jail, so they don't care [if they] do a stupid thing like that," an inmate says, "but it's not in our minds to do that."

Despite the threat of danger, Lisa says she felt a human connection with the inmates that eased her fears. "At the end of the day, no matter what they've done, they're human beings," she says. "When you sit across from them and you look them in the eyes, if you treat them with respect, they will respect you."
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FROM: Lisa Ling Goes Inside One of the World's Most Dangerous Gangs
Published on January 31, 2006

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