Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Spending time with murderers, rapists and visiting a unique type of penal system....

Iwahig Penal Colony
The largest open air, penal rehabilitation facility of it's kind in the world.

Hello all, Yesterday, we wanted to make a very special trip to the Iwahig Penal Colony on the Palawan Island.  It is 30 kilometers away from Puerto Princesa.  When I read about this place, I had to check it out.  Iwahig was built by the Americans in 1902 for the Philippine prisoners who fought against American colonization.  The reason this is such a unique place is because of the 2300 prisoners, the majaority are convicted of homicide and yet are not locked up within the colony.

What is unique about this rehabilitation prison is that once the inmates have served a minimum of 1/3 of their sentence and have proven they will not escape based on their behavior, they are allowed to farm, have their families live with them if they so choose, or sell their crafts in and around the souvenir shop.  They are only allowed to leave outside the premises of the penal colony but the land is huge!    The penal farm is composed of 6000 hectars of land.  

One of the rice fields that are farmed by the prisoners

Some of the medium security inmates are making a pond.

He is charged for accessory to rape.  He was selling wooden crafts to us.  

My cousin is making friends with the prisoners.  They were so excited to take a picture with her until one them put his arm on her.  She nervously laughed and told them is not allowed to touch her.  

They were taking a little break and very excited to have a visitor.  

souvenir shop where the prisoners consign their crafts to sell

He is an extremely jealous man.  He is in prison for killing a man who was having an affair with his girlfriend.  He is 36 years old and has been in here since he was 17.  

This is his craft that he sells.  He makes boats inside of bottles piece by piece.

Kuya Jun  has been a prisoner for over 18 years.  He also murdered someone who was a long time enemy and is selling his crafts here.  They get 10% of the sale of their crafts.

Another prisoner, named Oliver who gave us a tour of the medium security compound.  He is also killed someone  and has been  in here for 28 years since he was 19.  He was transferred in here in 1995.  He is a respected inmate and is allowed outside of the compound.  You must serve a minimum of 1/3 of your sentence to be even considered to work outside the prison.  They just ran out of t-shirts to classify him!!

Medium security compound
We were not allowed to go in here.  I bought a carton of cigareetes and passed it through the exterior door to handout.  These prisoners were so grateful since they rarely get vissitors.  Most of them were transferred from Manila to this island.  They don't get to see their families often since you would have to take a flight to this island in order to get here.

Daily chalkboard that counts the total number of inmatess, how many are inside, and how many are outside of the compound.  To the right of the board is the number of people assigned to different tasks outside of the prison.  They must count daily to make sure no one has escaped.  Today there is a total of 981 prisoners in the penal farm and 191 prisoners were allowed to work outside the prison.  You must earn the trust of the guards and they have to feel comfortable that you will not try to escape the compound if they allow you to work the fields or sell your crafts around the perimeter.  

This inmate is not trusted enough yet to leave the prison.

This is a security guard named Buddy,  He has worked in this prison for over 20 years.    He has his trusted inmates that also help him to make sure that prisoners do not escape.  These inmates assist him because if a prisoner escapes, the guard must be accountable as to why this happened.  

Road to the Iwahig Penal Farm

The prisoners are classified by minimum, medium and maximum security and are distinguished by the color of their t-shirts.  They also specify the type of security that they are on their t-shirts.  When I think minimum security inmates, I am thinking maybe they did petty theft or white collared crimes.  As I got to know many of them, they were mostly convicted of murder!  Don't be fooled that minimum security means a minimal crime.  Most of the medium and maximum security prisoners are classified as such because they had tried to escape.

Many of the minimum security prisoners live in dormitories and are allowed to work on one of the agricultural projects on the penal farm rather than being confined in the prison.  Their families are even allowed to live with them.  The prisoners get a small percentage from the crops or from the crafts that they create.

Meet Kuya Reynaldo and his artisan crafts that he made.

He is 65 years old and is a mimum security inmate.

 He greeted us at the gate, selling his crafts.  This seemingly harmless old man went in the prison in 1965 and came out in 1980 for a double homicide.  He then, entered back in because he committed arson where another two people had died.  He is now serving two consecutive life sentences.  He said life is so much better inside than in the civilian world.  He is fed, has a roof over his head and still has the freedom to walk around the penal grounds.  He makes crafts and sells them to people who visit the penal farm. This is definitely his perspective because according to the guards, people still try to escape despite being an institution and rehabilitation center where people have more freedom than most prisoners.  Kuya Reynaldo said he would much rather be in here than in the outside world.

Minimum Security Compound

1 comment:

  1. thats so interesting. but damn woman did you want to look a little less sexy going to an island filled with murderers?? crazy