When the world gets closer.

We help you see farther.

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter.

Sources

The Filipino Prison That Uses Freedom, Not Bars

The Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa is known as the "prison without walls," because even violent convicts here can work and live on this vast land with relative autonomy.

Welcome!
Welcome!
Jofelle Tesorio and Ariel Carlos

PUERTO PRINCESA — Rather than receiving the death penalty, some convicted murderers and rapists in the Philippines are instead sent to the so-called "prison without walls." At Asia's only such jail, 3,000 inmates live and work on 74,000 acres in one of the country's most beautiful regions.

Like many others, Carlo Mercedez works behind a computer in a simple office for eight hours a day — Monday to Friday. "Then I get weekends off to spend time with my family," he says.

But Mercedez isn't an ordinary citizen. He's one of the prisoners here at Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, serving 30 years for rape. He begins his office day early, coming and going freely but expected to be present for multiple prisoner head counts during the day.

"At 6 in the morning we have head count, then we go back to prepare to go to the office at 8 a.m., he says. "We go home at noon to have lunch, then go back at the office at 1 p.m. At 4 p.m., there is another head counting. Then we can go home."

He has been at this unique prison for seven years. "I don't know when I will be released, but I already served my minimum sentence since 2011," he says.

Because of that, he is allowed to live in a halfway house with his wife and three young children, who attend school inside the open-air prison's facility.

Newer inmates serving time for murder, rape and dealing drugs are also free to work inside the prison grounds during the day, but they are kept locked up at night.

Penal Superintendent Richard Schwarzkopf Jr. is clearly proud of the fact that the facility is the only one of its kind in Asia. "We can talk about the uniqueness of Iwahig as a prison without bars maybe because of its vast location, natural environment and way of treating inmates," he says. "Some of our existing programs being undertaken can be adapted to other prison facilities."

On the vast grounds, there are all kinds of agricultural activities: rice farming, coconut plantations, chicken farming, a fish pond and vegetable farms. Based on their skills, inmates are given jobs ranging from farming to office work.

And the place has also become somewhat of a tourist attraction. Aldrin, who is serving 20 years for a crime he doesn't want to talk about, makes a living from selling handicrafts to tourists. "Those who want to see Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm and our historical buildings, please visit us," he says. "You can help us inmates by visiting this facility and buying souvenir items.”


Tourists visiting Iwahig — amy abanes via Instagram

Keep reading... Show less
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
Ideas

Yes, Her Too: A Feminist Reading Of The Depp Vs. Heard Case

The Johnny Depp-Amber Heard defamation suit has become a Hollywood media (sh*t) storm, but there are troubling real consequences in the way domestic violence is being portrayed, when the victim is less-than-perfect.

Fans welcome Johnny Depp with "Justice For Johnny" signs at the defamation trial against Amber Heard.

Catalina Ruiz-Navarro*

First the background: Johnny Depp and Amber Heard met in 2012. They started a relationship when Depp was still with Vanessa Paradis, and eventually married in 2015. Fifteen months later, Heard filed for divorce, accusing Depp of domestic violence and asking for a restraining order.

In the lawsuit, Heard said, ”I endured excessive emotional, verbal and physical abuse from Johnny, which has included angry, hostile, humiliating and threatening assaults to me whenever I questioned his authority or disagreed with him.” They then made a million-dollar settlement, and soon after, Heard asked for the restraining order to be dropped.

Keep reading... Show less

When the world gets closer, we help you see farther

Sign up to our expressly international daily newsletter!
You've reached your monthly limit of free articles.
To read the full article, please subscribe.
Get unlimited access. Support Worldcrunch's unique mission:
  • Exclusive coverage from the world's top sources, in English for the first time.
  • Stories from the best international journalists.
  • Insights from the widest range of perspectives, languages and countries
Already a subscriber? Log in
THE LATEST
FOCUS
TRENDING TOPICS

Central to the tragic absurdity of this war is the question of language. Vladimir Putin has repeated that protecting ethnic Russians and the Russian-speaking populations of Ukraine was a driving motivation for his invasion.

Yet one month on, a quick look at the map shows that many of the worst-hit cities are those where Russian is the predominant language: Kharkiv, Odesa, Kherson.

Watch Video Show less
MOST READ