Espinoza: Islet as penal colony

The other side

WITH the overly-populated jails in Cebu, the suggestion of Cebu Provincial Health Officer (CPHO) Dr. Rene Catan to use the uninhabited islets in the province as the detention or rehabilitation centers for the inmates is worth considering by the provincial officials and the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Dr. Catan made the suggestion during the meeting of the Provincial Peace and Order Council (PPOC) on Monday. According to Catan, per information from the Provincial Tourism Office, Cebu has 137 uninhabited islets.

The suggestion of Dr. Catan is well thought and deserves praise even if it’s not a new idea. Actually, if you look back at history, islands were used as detention or penal facilities by developed countries, like the Alcatraz Island across San Francisco, California.

Not far from here is the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, one of the world’s largest open-air jails that instead of concrete walls, it is only fenced with wires. A story by Al Jazeera states that a single guard at the entrance gate at Iwahig greets tourists and the visiting relatives of the convicts without inspecting them.

The American colonial government that ruled our country then established the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in 1904 to isolate the Filipino criminals. Now, this penal institution is even visited by tourists. The prison and its 3,186 convicts are only 14 kilometers away from Puerto Princesa, Palawan, a top tourist destination.

As a health official, Catan is looking at the well-being of the inmates. With the congested Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), the prisoners easily get sick. Putting the inmates in an island provided with food, water and shelter, but heavily guarded prevents disease from spreading among the inmates, said Catan. They could even earn if provided with livelihood.

In the ‘70s, if my memory serves me right, the islet, which is now part of the South Road Properties, was once considered to be used as a detention and penal center. It did not materialize perhaps because the islet is more ideal for a business enterprise than a penal colony.

The Provincial officials should start scouting now for an islet that is suitable for a detention and rehabilitation center before the situation in CPDRC would become perilous not only to the well-being of the inmates, but also to the image of the current provincial administration.


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