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Inside van der Sloot's cell: A thin mattress, a hole for a toilet

By Mayra Cuevas-Nazario and Jean Casarez, In Session
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Joran Van der Sloot is led from his cell in the isolation unit at Castro Castro prison.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Joran van der Sloot has his own cell at the Castro Castro prison in Lima, Peru
  • He eats the same food as the prison staff for security reasons
  • A Bible, some boxes of toothpaste, and magazines were on his bed
  • In Session toured the prison and received access to the cell
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Editor's note: Mayra Cuevas-Nazario is an assignment producer and Jean Casarez is a correspondent for In Session, which airs daily from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. ET on CNN's sister network, truTV.

Lima, Peru (CNN) -- The last thing we heard before going into Castro Castro prison here was the sound of a metal door closing behind us and the clanking of bolts and locks. We were locked in.

Castro Castro is home to some of Peru's most violent criminals, including terrorists. It is also the new home of Joran van der Sloot, who is charged in the murder of a young Peruvian woman, and has long been a suspect the 2005 disappearance of Alabama teen Natalee Holloway in Aruba.

The prison, built in the 1980s to house national terrorists, is surrounded by dirt roads in a poor neighborhood in the outskirts of Lima.

It is one of the country's most technologically advanced prisons. Visitors must consent to a full body scan in order to enter the jail.

We had to cross several gated perimeters before we arrived at one of the twelve inmate pavilions. Inmates are housed according to their crimes and every inmate group has a leader who serves as a liaison between the inmates and jail officials.

We were able to speak freely to inmates in one pavilion used to house inmates accused of drug crimes. They told us that rehabilitation is a big part of their prison life. We were shown several workshops that teach skills including arts and crafts, baking, culinary arts, carpentry, shoe making and computer skills.

Prison officials say these inmates have passed psychological exams and have earned the benefit of participating in these specialty workshops.

Inmate Walter Ramos told us he would go crazy if it wasn't for the opportunity to be in the art and crafts workshop. He has been in prison for 27 months and has yet to stand trial. The last time he saw a judge was 14 months ago, he says.

At Castro Castro. inmates are rewarded for good behavior as a way for authorities to keep the peace amongst the population.

As we made our way through the different pavilions and speak to a group of men charged for terrorism we are constantly surrounded by about a dozen guards. They will accompany us for the duration of our 3 hour visit.

It is a large amount of security considering that only fifty unarmed guards watch over almost 1600 inmates on a daily basis.

Overpopulation is a big problem at Castro Castro. The jail was built to house only 700 inmates, with two inmates per cell but in fact, four to six inmates now occupy most cells, authorities said.

We asked to see the living quarters but authorities would not allow it citing security concerns.

We were able to see was Joran van der Sloot's cell. Prison officials took us after he was escorted out. We caught a glimpse of him through the fence as guards led him from the protective custody unit. He wore an orange shirt and light colored pants.

He is kept in a solitary cell the size of a walk-in closet. It was equipped with a cot covered with a thin mattress and a blanket made from Peruvian textiles. The mattress was probably about six inches thick, and it was covered with a sheet. It seemed comfortable enough to the touch.

On top of the bed were several books, most of them in Dutch. The books included a Bible and other religious works. Beneath the books were some magazines.

Also on top of the bed were two unopened boxes of what looked like toothpaste. There were hooks on the walls for clothes. Hanging on one was the red knit jacket van der Sloot has worn on television.

There was a hole in the floor for a toilet and a concrete sink with running water. The cell didn't seem cold. The floor of the cell was covered with shiny synthetic wood.

Van der Sloot does not eat with the other inmates, prison officials said. His meals are prepared separately for him for security reasons. He eats what the prison staff eats.

We are told he has met with a criminal defense attorney, Maximo Altez. Outside his cell complex we bump into pastoral superintended Peter Middelkoop, who said he had just met with Van der Sloot to offer him spiritual advice. He could not provide us with any details, citing confidentiality agreements.

Jail director Alex Samame told us his goal is to eventually introduce Van der Sloot into the general population.

Inmate Ramos said Van der Sloot has nothing to worry about since many at Castro Castro have been accused of similar crimes. "He is one of us" he said.

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