Iwahig Penal Colony

Iwahig Penal Colony

The Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm was originally set up in 1902 by the United States to house Philippine prisoners who had fought against the American colonization of the Philippines. Today, situated on the lush island of Palawan, only 30 minutes by road from Puerto Princesa City, Iwahig is unique among penal institutions. Despite the fact that most of the 2,300 inmates have been convicted of homicide, the majority are minimum security prisoners and are thus not locked up within the colony. Instead, these minimum security inmates live in dormitories and work on one of the many agricultural projects located within the prison farm. Prisoners who are deemed to be at risk of escaping are confined to medium or maximum security areas, where they are monitored, but these prisoners comprise less than fifty percent of the Iwahig population.

Girls return home from school, passing maximum security prisoners working in a garden. Many of the prison employees live within the penal colony with their families, and there is even an elementary school within the colony.

After they gain the trust of the guards some colonists are given more responsibility. In this case, a trusted prisoner watches over other inmates working in the rice-fields.

Minimum security prisoners bring rice in from the fields.

Minimum security prisoners thresh rice.

Colonists are counted often to make sure none are missing. Here inmates are being counted after they finish work in the ricefields.

There is not enough money in the colony's budget to issue all prisoners official uniforms, so most inmates simply have an orange scrap of cloth pinned to their shirt to indicate that they are inmates.

Lunchtime at maximum security. Inmates get three meals a day. Meals mostly consist of rice, rootcrops and some vegetables. Once or twice a week inmates are given some meat. The budget for food is 20 pesos per colonist per day.

Prisoners in Maximum Security are not permitted to leave the compound except when working under guard. Friends in Minimum buy bread for them on the outside and bring it to them.

A prison guard stands watch outside a building that dates from the American times. The building currently serves as a recreation hall and a dormitory for minimum security inmates.

Members of a prison marching band. None of the bandmembers had any musical experience before arriving at Iwahig.

During his free time, an inmate teaches another inmate's son how to play marbles. With permission from the Department of Corrections, some inmates are allowed live with their families inside the colony.

Inmates play volleyball in a tournament organized by the prison administration.

A colonist prepares dinner outside his dormitory. Minimum security prisoners, unlike medium and maximum security prisoners, prepare their own meals.

Home : Portfolio : Iwahig Penal Colony :

All photographs on this site are copyright Stephen Wallace and may not be republished or redistributed in any form without permission.