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Scenes of the Iwahig Penal Colony, The Philippines, c. 1930. 

From John Gillin, Taming the Criminal: Adventures in Penology. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931.

“"I suppose the colonists here
are the less serious offenders,“ I remarked to Director Victorio as we
walked up past the long line of inmates of the Iwahig Penal Colony on the
Sunday morning we landed there to visit the colony . "Well,” he said,
“you see that man over there? That is Angel Saria. He was one of the most
desperate bandits in northern Luzon a few years ago. He was finally captured,
tried, and sentenced to Bilibid. After a period of training there, he did so
well that he was allowed to transfer to Iwahig. He is now a trusty in a
responsible position in the colony .” He added, “You see that man at
the head of the column.” He was a sergeant of police in Manila, who was sent
to prison for falsification of the police records. Today he is the chief municipal
officer of the colony.“ He added, "Did you notice that small bronzed
figure who came on the boat to get us at Puerto Princesa? That is a Moro Dato –
a chief among the Moros. He was sentenced for life for insurrection. I
transferred him to Iwahig because, when he came to San Ramon Prison, I put him
in charge of the training of the Moro prisoners on good conduct. They respected
him because of his position among his people. He did so well there that I
thought he would be of service here. When he heard that we were coming for this
visit, he left on foot through the wilderness and travelled from three o’clock
Saturday until this morning in order to be here.” So he went on, telling
me of case after case in which there had been a most remarkable transformation
of attitude toward society.

After we had been served refreshments at the superintendent’s house, almost two
thousand of these colonists with their band at the head marched past the
reviewing stand in the plaza of the central station of the colony, a plaza
named in honor of the Philippine patriot, Jose Rizal. At the end of the
procession came about twenty water buffaloes with a convict astride each one,
then the Indian humped cattle each ridden by a prisoner. It was a very
remarkable sight. Even more remarkable in many ways was the assembly of the
colonists at five o’clock that evening. They were led by the band to a position
in front of the band stand from which the director made a speech to them. At
the close of his address he asked if anyone had any complaints as to his
treatment in the colony. There was silence for a few minutes; then an old man
raised his hand. When asked to state his complaint, he said that the governor
had promised to pardon him, but the pardon had not come. Then another old man
said that he had been there twelve years and he thought he ought to be
pardoned. These two were followed by perhaps a dozen more old men asking for
pardon. The director finally remarked that he had asked for complaints, not
requests for pardon, that he had no power to pardon, but would look into the
cases and recommend certain of them to the Governor-General for pardon. There
were no complaints. As evening settled down over the colony the colonists made
their way to their respective stations.

In the dusk of the evening the memory of about a score of old colonists asking
for pardon, men who were too old to be capable of repeating their crimes, stuck
in my mind. “Why is there no parole system by which these old men can be
set at liberty under supervision?” I thought. Languishing in every prison
in the United States which has no parole system are similar sad cases which can
be handled only by executive clemency.  

When we left the colony to take
the ship back to Manila, I had time to visit the little town at Puerto
Princesa. I got into conversation with one of the provincial officers there. I
asked him what he thought of the results on the men who had been at Iwahig.
“Well,” he said, “many of them when discharged settle down here
with their families and take up a piece of land. They become our best settlers.
They are industrious, as most of those here are not, and they make very
substantial citizens.” Remember that the provincial politicians at Puerto
Princesa are not friendly to the prison administration. The island of Palawan
on which the colony is located is mostly undeveloped land. The colonists have
been taught to work under the supervision of trained agriculturists. They have
learned the value of money and of good conduct in the colony.

What is this colony which has
accomplished such results from which men come not as jailbirds with a stigma
attached which prevents their success? It comprises some one hundred thousand
acres of what was once untamed wilderness. It varies in character from swamp to
mountains. It is cut up by rivers which rush down from the mountains,
furnishing plenty of water for irrigation of the rice and coconut trees which
the colonists have planted. Governor-General Luke Wright and later
Governor-General Forbes are responsible for the inception of the colony. Mr.
Quillen, who was one of the first directors of the Bureau of Prisons, took an
active interest in it, but the colony has had its ups and downs.  

In the early days there were
insurrections among the convicts, there were scandals in the administration,
there were numerous escapes. After numerous trials and failures, the Director
of the Bureau of Prisons, Mr. Quillen, sent Ramon Victorio, who was assistant
superintendent of the San Ramon Prison and Penal Colony in Mindanao, to Iwahig
as assistant superintendent. He was placed in charge of agriculture, and in
charge of the discipline. He discovered that in the trouble there were about
five ringleaders. These he called before him.
He told them that he would not be bullied by threats of force on their
part. He put pistols in their hands and charged them with the responsibility of
putting down any disturbance among their fellows. He also told them for one
week they would have the opportunity to kill him, for he would sleep unguarded
and would carry only a walking stick for his protection. If they did not kill
him during that week, he would expect them to obey him implicitly thereafter.
At the end of the week the leaders met him again, handed over their weapons,
and agreed to co-operate with the assistant superintendent. His physical
courage and his business-like methods inspired confidence and there was no
further trouble. Shortly thereafter he was made superintendent, the first
native to hold the position.  That action
is characteristic of his dealings with the criminals under his charge. He knows
criminal psychology.  

This colony is intended for first
offenders who have proved their good conduct and industry in Bilibid. Recidivists
of more than two convictions are not sent to Iwahig. Usually only first
offenders sentenced to from twelve years to life are eligible. Of these, only
those are eligible who have served a fifth of their sentences, at least two
years, and have by good conduct attained the rank of first class and are ready
to go into the highest or “trusty” class. An administrative order,
approved January 1, 1926, stipulated eligibility for promotion to “penal
colonist” or “trusty” and was made to depend on having served at
least one-tenth of the sentence imposed by the court and having attained a
general conduct rating of 95 per cent for at least one year immediately
preceding the completion of that period of one-tenth of the sentence.  The following description of the organization
of the colony will present in outline form the way in which matters are
arranged:

Under the Spanish regime, exile was a method of punishment. The island of
Palawan was used as this place of banishment. After the Americans took over the
Philippines in 1898 nothing was done to change this place of exile into a penal
colony until 1904. Then under Governor-General Luke Wright and W. Cameron
Forbes, at that time Secretary of Commerce and Police, later Governor-General,
a penal colony was established. Developments in many lines have occurred since
that small beginning.

At present (1928) the colony occupies an area of over 100,000 acres and has
about 2000 inmates including the families of some 90 of the prisoners. The
inmates are divided into two groups, “colonists” and
“settlers.” The latter are colonists who are allowed to bring their
families to the colony, and live with them in separate dwellings in a barrio or
district in charge of an officer called a terriente
del barrio
or village sheriff, elected by the “settlers” from
their own number. These districts are near to the central station, so that the
children may attend the schools established there for the education of the
employees’ children.  The “colonists” are
scattered in some forty districts over the estate in groups of from 30 to 60,
each carrying on some phase of colony activity. This group is divided into the
following functional sections: (1) Animal husbandry; (2) band; (3) construction
and repair; (4) engineering and machinery; (5) executive; (6) farming; (7)
forestry; (8) health and sanitation; (9) horticulture; (10) information; (11)
land transportation; (12) out-stations; (13) police; (14) bridges and roads;
(15) water transportation; (16) miscellaneous. The construction and repair
section has charge of all building, repair and maintenance of all structures in
the colony. They make the brick and tile, do the tinsmithing, and burn the lime
needed. The road and bridge section builds the bridges and have constructed all
the roads in the colony. The engineering and machinery section operates the
power and electric plant, manufactures the ice, maintains the cold storage,
operates the sawmills and planers, the sugar mills and the threshing machines.
The animal industry section has charge of the more than 2000 head of cattle,
about 500 water buffalo, and thousands of other domestic animals and fowls. It
carries on the dairying and butchers the meat for the colony.  The care of the animals and fowls there, as
here, has a wholesome influence on the colonists. Here are beings for which
they are responsible. These animals they can subject and care for and thus feed
their famishing instincts of dominance and sympathy. Here are beings which look
up to them. Animals know no artificial social distinctions between a free man
and a criminal.  

The water transportation section
has charge of the operation, maintenance, and repair of the boats, the hauling
of firewood, and many other miscellaneous matters. The land transportation
section maintains the motors and other vehicles on land and hauls gravel for
road construction and materials for buildings. Those in the out-stations
section are divided into two subsections: the agricultural and the fishing. The
former has charge of the planting and the cultivation of coconut trees,
tapioca, bananas, rice, corn, and fruit trees, the making of copra, and other
agricultural work. The latter catches the fish used in the colony, often going
out to sea in launches for a week at a time. They make and repair the fish
nets, dig and care for the fish ponds, dry the fish, etc.

The police section, from the standpoint of penology, is one of the most
interesting. Those in this section maintain peace and order, execute the
punishments, disciplinary measures, and orders. The members are all colonists
appointed by the superintendent of the colony and are under the immediate
charge of a chief known as Lieutenant of Police. The duties of those in the other
sections are sufficiently indicated by their names. The colonists work under a
system which keeps the economic motive alive. Half of the net value of their
products they get to their credit, the other half going to the government. All
the improvements in the colony, such as clearing the land, irrigation, planting
the trees, etc., roads, buildings – all are products of the labor of the
colonists.

Cultural institutions at Iwahig are not neglected.  At the central station near which most of the
‘settlers’ (practically all those with families) live are schools for the
children. These schools both the children of the “settlers” and of
the officers attend without any distinction between them. Moreover, the
children of the convicts play with the children of the officers. One of the
large buildings in the group at the central station is the community hall. This
is a large recreation hall at which concerts, dances, plays, and exhibits are
given. The colonists and the employees and their respective families attend
these functions. One night we were there a dance was given. It was impossible
for me to tell which were the families of the colonists and which were the families
of the officers. They mingled indiscriminately so far as I could observe.
Moreover, there are two churches at the central station attended by the
officers and their families and by the settlers and their families. Certainly
it was a new thing to me in the conduct of an institution for convicts. To them
it did not seem to be anything out of the ordinary. Half of the officers had
been convicts in former years!  The small number of employees
necessary to run the colony is astonishing. They are: superintendent, first and
second assistant superintendents, physician, nurse, chief clerk, cashier,
property officer, farming instructor, two chaplains, eight foremen, bandmaster,
and three teachers. Many of the employees are ex-colonists. Only the
superintendent has a weapon! All the colonists carry bolos!  Does this colony pay? In 1925 the
gross income of the colony was 113,808.43 pesos and the expenses 203,910.48
pesos. Thus the net cost was 90,102.05 pesos ($45,051), or an average of about
$22.50 per inmate. As at Bilibid the discipline is in the hands of a court
under the police section which tries all offenders. There are also Justices of
the Peace appointed from among the colonists to try.”    

– John Gillin, Taming the Criminal: Adventures in Penology. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931. pp. 54-60 

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“An attempt at a kind of
self-government is carried on in Bilibid Prison. As we went about the yard I
noticed over a part of the old central tower, formerly the dungeon cells in
Spanish times, a sign “The Court” painted on the wall. There was a
room fixed up as a courtroom. All offenses are tried by a jury of inmates by
judges selected from the prisoners. The sentence is reviewable by the director.
Also from among the prisoners is organized a police force which assists the
guards to keep order. “How does that work?” I asked Director
Victorio. “Fine,” he replied. “When a jury of his own peers and a court
composed of judges selected from among themselves pronounces the verdict of
‘guilty’ or ‘not guilty,’ and when a man is sentenced by his own fellows, he
finds that he has no support in his tendency to justify himself. He knows that
they will not convict him if he is not guilty. He feels that he is not imposed
on by a superior.“ He added that it makes discipline very much easier for
the officers. Here is a method of self-government which seems to have won the
support of a hardboiled warden.

I mentioned before that there are
about 160 women prisoners kept in one of the wings of this prison. While they
are kept at useful work, and while the discipline is quite severe, their
presence within the walls in which men are confined is an evil which the
officers hope will soon be remedied by having built for them an institution
outside. It is impossible to prevent communication between men and women.

The
most astonishing innovation in the prison is a hospital under the direction of
Dr. Estrada. While in most of our American prisons the hospital is inadequate, at
Bilibid abundant room is provided. I have seen nothing like it in the States.
Every prisoner is placed in quarantine, on entrance, for five days. There is an
isolation ward for those found to have infectious diseases. In the various
wards special classes of diseases are treated. There are medical, surgical,
contagious, and quarantine wards, with special wards for convalescents. In the
laboratory connected with the hospital all kinds of examinations are made
except Wassermann and blood chemistry. These are made by the Philippine Bureau
of Science. There is a well-trained staff of doctors. There is an adequate
staff of nurses. Part of each are civilians and part inmates. For example, two
of the assistant doctors are inmates who were well-trained medical men before
they were incarcerated. They have a nurses’ training school manned by trained
nurses who instruct certain of the inmates to act as assistants. There is also
a good operating room with most of the modern apparatus, and a dispensary
adequate to the needs of the institution.

Between the prison proper and the hospital is a wall the gates of which
are shut after five o’oclock at night and are not opened except on the orders
of the director when a man must be transferred from the prison to the hospital
on account of sickness. The only bad feature I saw in connection with the
hospital was that in a certain building in the hospital compound there were
confined twenty-eight civilian insane. This is done only because of the
inadequate provisions for the care of the insane in Manila. Naturally if the
civilian insane are not properly cared for one could hardly expect that the
care of the criminal insane is what our best practice in the States provides.
But the authorities are alive to the problem and are taking steps to improve
the situation as soon as possible.

What has been the result of this
rather interesting penal experiment? Mr. Alzate, the Assistant Director of the
Bureau of Prisons, says: "Our prison records show that no convict accused
of any of the crimes against property who has acquired skill and dexterity in
some given trade during the period of his incarceration has been returned to
any of our penitentiaries for offenses caused by inability to provide honestly
for himself and his family or by a desire to live a life of ease which is not
the result of his honest endeavors.” Perhaps the story of a case will show
better than any mere statement what happens in some cases. The case of Emiliano
Ramos is only one of a number of which I heard while in the Philippines.

I have killed three men and
wounded several others. I killed them to defend the life of others and my own,
not to rob them or because I was craving for human blood.

This was the statement of Ramos,
who, on August 3, 1925, was granted a conditional pardon by the
Governor-General. This man had served many years in prison and had two
sentences of cadenas perpetuas (life
imprisonment) hanging over him when pardoned. What strange kind of prisoner is
this who in the face of such a record receives a conditional pardon?

I saw him first when Senor
Victorio, Director of the Bureau of Prisons, was taking me through Bilibid for
the first time. Close at the director’s heels was this tall, slim, swarthy
native. In the prison he was the director’s shadow. Next, I saw him on the dock
when I boarded the coastguard cutter, the Bustamente, to go to the penal colony
at Iwahig. There he was in his neat uniform assisting busily in getting aboard
the prisoners being taken to the colony. The director and I were leaning on the
ship’s rail watching the last busy preparations for sailing. “Do you see
that prisoner down there? “The tall, slim fellow?” asked the director.
“Yes, who is he?” I replied. “Wait until we get started and I’ll
tell you his story,” he answered.

When the ship was at last slowly
proceeding down the lazy Pasig River to the sea, the director motioned me to a
seat on the deck and started to tell me the story of Ramos. We had not gone
far, however, in the story before we were out of Manila Bay upon the rough sea.
Victorio, the director, is a poor sailor and had to take to his cabin. He said
that he would give me a booklet in which was the story. Here it is:

When I entered Bilibid I was only
eighteen years old. Exactly thirty-five years ago last Monday I was born in the
barrio of Balete, Calumpit, Bulacan. My people were engaged in farming and I,
like my brothers, helped our father till the soil. One day, a date that I shall
never forget, the 3d of April, 1909, I saw a man fishing in a pond situated
within the boundaries of our land. I went to him and bade him to leave but he
refused to go, claiming that he was on his own ground. In view of this, I went
to my father and reported to him the incident, whereupon he came out with me
accompanied by one of my brothers, and the three together went to the pond
where the man was fishing. An argument ensued, two or three other men appeared
on the scene, and seeing my father in danger of falling the victim of the
aggression of a man much younger than he was, I pulled out the bolo we always
carried as a necessary tool for our work and struck a blow on the man who
imperilled my father’s life. The next thing I knew was that a man was lying on
the ground, blood gushing from his body. For this I got my first cadena perpetua and commenced to serve
the sentence on March, 28, 1910.

My life in prison had been that of
an underdog until the methods of enforcing prison discipline underwent a change
for the better.  

No matter how good I tried to be,
no matter how closely I adhered to the rules and regulations of the
penitentiary as best I knew how, no matter my efforts to refrain from
committing the slightest infraction of discipline, I found myself rather too
often with legs and arms chained and thrust into a cell known in Bilibid as the
‘bartoline.’  Despite all these
discouraging experiences, I still persisted and tried to be good, realizing that
I was up against it.  My persistency was
not fruitless, for at last I gained the status of a first-class prisoner.  My life then within the walls of the prison
had been uneventful, my time and attention being devoted to acquiring the
knowledge necessary to master a trade.  I
was assigned to the Bamboo Department.

Another date written with human
blood on the pages of my life is that of May 3, 1919, when a fellow prisoner
died by my hand, and another fell badly wounded. This was the result of what I
regarded as an inhuman treatment accorded the patients in the prison hospital,
among whom my father was one. I noticed that the patients’ rations were reduced
to insufficiency – taking into consideration their condition – by
fellow-prisoners who were in charge of the different wards, that they might
trade the food taken away from the patients for articles of their own
comfort.  On that day, I went to see the
prisoner in charge of the patients’ food and asked him why he persisted in
starving sick fellow-prisoners, but as instead of a civil answer I saw a man in
the attitude of striking me, I parried his blow with a blow which resulted in
his death, and wounded another who tried to come to his aid. For this, another cadema perpetua was added to the first
imposed upon me, and I was transferred to Corregidor in chains, and demoted to
third class. While there, I had occasion to quell a fight bolos, knives, and
staves, despite the chains which greatly handicapped the movement of my
legs.  For the assistance I rendered on
that occasion the chains were taken off my legs, I was restored to first class
and made a chief squad leader.

In 1923, I was sent to Iwahig,
where I was made foreman of a gang of colonists. Having been informed by some
of the men under my charge that Jacinto Pace, sergeant of the colony police and
at the same time the acting superintendent’s chauffeur, made it his hobby to
report colonists – who refused to obey his bidding – for imaginary offenses
which usually resulted in the punishment of the innocent convicts, due to the
unbounded confidence the acting superintendent had in him, I decided, on the
night of May 23, 1923, to see him to discontinue his unwarranted persecution,
but my errand was so unsuccessful that to save my own life I had to kill
him.  The court pronounced me guiltless
in this case, for it was established that I killed in self-defense.

Returned to Bilibid that same year, as a consequence of the unhappy incident I
have just related, and as a reward of my efforts not only to be good but to do
all I could to co-operate with the prison officials in enforcing discipline
among fellow-prisoners, I was made a member of the Trusty Police. My record
thereafter only the director can disclose to you.

After two years of faithful service as a
trusty , Senor Victorio recommended to the Governor-General, on April 14, 1925,
that Ramos be classified as a free colonist with privileges much more
restricted than those of the free colonists at Iwahig. The basis of his
recommendation was that for the past three years Ramos had shown exemplary
conduct. In fact, he had risked his own life to quell disturbances in the
prison. On one occasion a crazed prisoner, Gonzalo Estrada, armed with a bolo,
was chasing several convicts with intent to do them great bodily harm. Ramos
intervened with great danger to himself, disarmed the man, and subdued him.
More recently a convict, Pedro Adorn by name, attempted to stab a
fellow-prisoner, Severino Salvador. Ramos, who chanced to be near, jumped upon
the would-be assassin, overpowered him, disarmed and delivered him to the
authorities. The last of Ramos’s exploits which led the director to recommend
his pardon was his intervention in a fight between three Chinese prisoners and
his bringing them all to the prison authorities. On the basis of his record,
Victorio concluded that Ramos was “not beyond the possibility of
accomplishment.”

Considering all the circumstances, Bilibid was not so bad as I was led to
expect. True, it is overcrowded. The dormitories are inadequate to house
properly the large numbers. The discipline is repressive, but not more so than
ninetenths of our American prisons – in fact, less so than in most I have
visited. It is located within the crowded section of the city of Manila. It
ought to be made into a receiving institution for study and classification, and
for the medical treatment of those ailing or defective on entrance. Another
kind of institution should be built out in the country where industry and
farming, according to the Philippine methods, could be carried on as at Iwahig.
Whatever classification is necessary would then be possible without the present
crowding. All the incentives practiced in America are in operation there. The
industries, for the most part, are adapted to the economic development of the
Philippines.

Bilibid is now used as a proving ground for the inmates on the
basis of which selections are made for transfer to the Iwahig Penal Colony.
There is no parole system in the Philippines. They still use the pardon to let
men out before their sentences expire. That is bad, but it is not the fault of
the prison, but of the legislature. The school is inadequate, but what prison
school is not? The dormitory system, long condemned in the United States, is
used. There the prisoners sleep three deep. That overcrowding none of the
officers defend. It is a question, however, in their minds whether an adequate
dormitory system for the Filipinos is not better than the isolated cell.
"But,” I asked the director, “what about sexual vice in these
dormitories?” In his opinion there is not so great a likelihood of such
practices as when two or four men are in a cell together. He adds that the
Islands are not able to build cell houses with a cell for each man. There is no
doubt that the present crowded dormitories are bad. On the whole it can be said
that Bilibid is no worse than some American prisons, and a great deal better
than many . That, however, is not enough for men who have done as much for
penological practice in the Philippines as Director Victorio and Assistant
Director Alzate. They appreciate the defects in many ways of the present
system, especially in Bilibid and the provincial prisons. They must go on to
further developments.”

 – John Gillin, Taming the Criminal: Adventures in Penology. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931. pp. 46-52.

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“One hundred inmates are employed
in Department G. They run a steam laundry. It cares for the laundry of the
prison and takes in civilian washing on a commercial basis. Fancy the derision
visited upon an inmate who comes back to his mountain home and who in reply to
the question of his neighbors as to what kind of work he did while in prison
replies that he did the washing! What a blush of shame will mantle his swarthy
face as the first astonished breath-holding is followed by a loud cry in
unison, “What?” “Women’s work!”

It will require a lot of explaining,
perhaps considered as the Philippine equivalent of our defense reaction known
as a lie, to disabuse his hearers of the picture summoned up in the minds of
his neighbors by his word, “washing,” the picture of him standing
knee deep in a river among the women, sloshing the clothes up and down in the
water and beating them upon a convenient stone. We are assured, however, by the
prison authorities that the growth of sanitary laundries and cleaning
establishments makes this trade a not undesirable one for ex-convicts. A
Westerner wonders why this is not a part of Department H.

The last organized department is H, for the one hundred sixty women in Bilibid.
Most of them are sentenced for theft, adultery, and prostitution. They are
taught domestic economy, weaving, embroidery, lace-making, and crocheting. This
is perhaps the least promising department from the standpoint of industrial
training. However, their lace and embroidery command good prices. Women
prisoners here, as in the United States, are poorly handled. In addition to the
organized departments just described, a number of other trades are taught,
incidentally to small numbers, in the maintenance of the prison, such as
shoe-making, cooking, baking, nursing, twine and rope making for prison use,
gardening, poultry-raising, hair-cutting, clerical work, typing, stenography,
and orchestral music. I fear, however, that the word “training”
applied to such work of prison maintenance here, as in America, is an
accommodation of language. Yet it must be said of Bilibid, what cannot be said
of many prisons in the United States, every prisoner is kept busy, from the
unruly fellow, who in stripes and chains pulls monotonously back and forth the
giant fan over the workers to keep them cool, or those others whom I saw
industriously mauling a tough knot of Philippine hard wood – my back and arms
ached for them from memories of my own boyhood exertions over dried elm knots –
to the artistic woodcarver and rattan weaver, or the 450,000 peso bank embezzler
who kept the prison accounts.

The inmates are graded into four grades.
Entering the prison, a man is placed in the second grade.  Those in this grade are clothed in blue denim
and are allowed certain privileges. Those in the third grade have been demoted
from the second grade for misconduct or lack of industry. These are clothed in
stripes. They are denied most of the privileges enjoyed by those in the second
grade. The first grade is made up of those who have been promoted from the
second grade for good conduct over a certain period of time. These enjoy
greater privileges and receive a larger wage. The fourth class is made up of
trusties. These have still more extended privileges and receive larger pay. All
these features are familiar to us in the United States.

Wisely the administration of the
prisons of the Philippines has taken measures to keep alive the economic
motive. The policy of the administration is to promote a prisoner from grade to
grade as rapidly as possible and from one position to another. Ordinarily a
prisoner may reach the grade of skilled laborer within a period of six months
and then be entitled to receive a certain amount of compensation; until he
reaches this grade he earns no wages. A convict who has served a tenth of his
term without any bad conduct is made a trusty. A trusty has special privileges
denied to others, such as sleeping in special dormitories, eating at a table
covered with a tablecloth, served by waiters. He works in some responsible
position and receives compensation for his work. There have been instances of
convicts who left Bilibid with money enough to carry them through for a
considerable period until they could get a job.

The law passed by the Philippine legislature,
regulating the compensation of prisoners, is as follows:

Insular prisoners who are or
become skilled and semi-skilled workmen may receive compensation for their work
from the profits accruing to the credit of the industrial division 6f the
Bureau of Prisons by the sale of articles manufactured by the prisoners or from
payments made for work performed by them: Provided, that such compensation does
not exceed the difference between the gross cost of the prisoner’s maintenance
and the amount that his services are reasonably worth with the additional
proviso, that all prisoners who are in the  same conduct and workmanship classifications,
regardless of nature of work, shall receive like compensation.

Half of these earnings are
withheld from the prisoners and deposited to their credit and paid to them upon
discharge; the other half, on the request of the prisoner, is used for the
support of the dependent members of his family or for such personal uses as may
be approved by the director of prisons.

A very interesting feature of
Bilibid Prison is the school. Every prisoner under thirty years of age gets two
periods of schooling a day up to the fourth grade. These classes are taught by
prisoners, but the whole school is under a civilian superintendent. Only the
elementary subjects and such practical subjects as mechanical drawing,
stenography , electricity , telegraphy , and accounting are taught. Since most
of the prisoners are quite uneducated, the classes are large. These classes are
held in one large building without partitions. When we visited the school the
noise seemed very disturbing. I was told that in this prison school many a boy
who has not had a chance at an elementary education learns to read and write
and the elements of arithmetic. When one considers that all these prisoners are
natives, many of them Igorrotes, who a few years ago were head-hunters, one
wonders whether the education given them might not be more practical.

Discipline in Bilibid is of the
semi-military variety. The chief question asked me by the newspaper reporters
after my first visit was, “What about the discipline?” On inquiry I
learned that the introduction of strict military discipline a few years ago was
looked upon as a distinct innovation, and a progressive measure. This military
discipline shows itself in the prisoners standing at military attention when
the officers are met, and in the drills which occur each afternoon at five
o’clock. The officers believe it has a salutary effect on the deportment of the
men. The discipline is not obtrusive when the men are at work. Breach of
discipline is punished by reduction in grade, deprivation of privileges, doing
hard and disagreeable work.

I was struck by the sight of
prisoners in stripes working the large fans hanging from the ceiling over the
workrooms. I asked why these men were doing this work, and was told that it was
a form of punishment. In another part of the prison we came upon a group of men
in stripes mauling a tough knot of wood. It did not seem to me to be worth
trying to split it, so I inquired why those five men were working so hard with
maul and wedge. “They are being disciplined for something,” I was
told. A guard stood over them to see that they did not relax their efforts. The
solitary confinement cells are kept for only the most recalcitrant. When I was
there, there were no inmates. I looked at this large room and found that it was
light and airy. Those who attempt to escape or are considered dangerous wear leg
irons joined by a chain. These, however, are held up by straps tied to a belt
around the waist so that they will not gall the ankles. Among the more than two
thousand inmates I should estimate roughly that five per cent were undergoing
discipline of some sort.

“Why do you retain stripes
and leg irons here, when these things have been condemned by the best
penological thought in our country?” I asked the director. “Ah,”
he replied, “we have to deal with people here in a different stage of
social development than those you deal with in the United States. I use these
punishments because they have a good effect upon those who see them.” I
had heard that argument before. Repress and intimidate by exemplifying
punishment before their eyes! At the daily “retreat” at five o’clock
the prison band plays.

At this “retreat” all
the prisoners assemble from the shops to the space beside their respective
dormitories. The outstanding group is the “Bilibid Scouts.” This is
composed of men selected because of good conduct, who live in a separate
dormitory, enjoy special privileges, and are trained in maneuvers and gymnastic
exercises. The “Scouts” and the band are the “crack” show
units of the prison. Almost every day at five o’clock visitors fill a kind of
rude gallery built on the roof of  the
central tower and watch these performers. It must be said that the maneuvers
are very impressive. The director believes that through these exercises an
esprit de corps is built up among the prisoners which has a wholesome influence.
After the “retreat” the prisoners file away to their dormitories,
take their baths, and eat their supper.

All executions in the Islands take
place at Bilibid. While twenty-eight men were in the death house when we were
there, it was uncertain whether any of them would be executed, as it is
necessary in the Islands for each case to be reviewed by the Supreme Court of
the Islands, and every one of the nine judges must sign the execution warrant.
Even after that the defendant may take an appeal to the Supreme Court of the
United States. However, in spite of all these difficulties, a number of men are
electrocuted each year, depending largely upon the policy of the
Governor-General. The only peculiarity about the mode of execution is the
number of witnesses who must be present. On the floor about the chair are
painted the names of the different officers who must attend. Not only must the
director and his assistant be present, but also a representative of the Supreme
Court and of the Governor-General.

There are very few escapes over
the walls. No wonder! On the walls are fourteen guards besides numerous
trusties and employees within the prison. Such a jail delivery as occurred at
Joliet a short time ago, when a number of inmates murdered the deputy warden, took
his keys, and forced the turnkey to open the gates, would probably have been
impossible here by reason of the mechanism by which the gates are closed.”

– John Gillin, Taming the Criminal: Adventures in Penology. New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931. pp. 41-46.

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“Bilibid is an old prison built by
the Spaniards in 1865. A high wall encloses about seventeen acres of ground.
Inside that wall the ground is divided into two equal parts by a wall running
through the center. In the center of the wall is a circular building with a watchtower
from which every part of the enclosure is visible. In this tower, constantly on
duty, are two guards armed with rifles. At frequent intervals along the walls
are stationed guards similarly armed, while in the tower over the entrance gate
and at the corners of the wall are machine guns. At the entrance is the
familiar double gate as seen in most American prisons. However, these gates are
opened and shut by a man in a tower who operates the gates in response to
electric signals from the outside gate. Moreover, he is in a barred enclosure
reached by a circular stairway also surrounded by bars so that no one may reach
him without a key to the lock at the bottom of the winding stair. Aloft the
tower over the entrance is the central telephone switchboard from which a full
view of the entire prison yard is provided. In the Spanish days the lower part
of the central building referred to above was divided into dark cells, which,
when the Americans occupied the city, were filled with political prisoners
chained to the walls and floors. These are now used as storerooms, and only a
few of the rings are to be seen. The former instruments of torture are to be
seen in the museum.

Inside the walls on each side of the dividing wall, the various buildings are
arranged like the spokes in a wheel from the central tower building as the hub.
Then other buildings are arranged around the walls, workshops for the most
part, for the prison is a great manufacturing establishment. Each of these
spokes is a dormitory in which the prisoners sleep, or in which certain classes
of prisoners are kept. Thus, one of the spokes houses 160 women prisoners.
There they live and work. Moreover, their wing is shut off from the others by
another wall. Another spoke contains the cells for the condemned prisoners
awaiting execution, and the death house with its electric chair. There are no
individual cells except the punishment cells, which were empty except for one
or two in which were confined men who were suspected of being insane. All
prisoners sleep in dormitories, in which there are triple-decked beds. These
also serve as the dining rooms for each dormitory to which the food is carried
and there eaten on a long center table. There is a large common kitchen. The
dividing wall through the prison serves to separate the new arrivals from the other prisoners, the
younger prisoners from the older, and the short termer from the long termer.
Moreover, an attempt is made to classify the prisoners by segregation in different
dormitories. In Bilibid Prison are also housed the jail prisoners of Manila.
These, however, are worked outside the walls in gangs on the streets and public
works of the city.

Bilibid is a great industrial
prison. Various shops occupy some of the large buildings around the grounds.
Here are various kinds of industries. There is an automobile repair shop, in
which are repaired and repainted not only publicly owned cars, but also private
cars, the work covering all the operations from adjusting a carburetor to
putting on a new coat of paint. Another shop is devoted to the manufacture of
bullock carts. All the work is done by hand in this shop as in most of the
others, for it is the belief of the management that the work done in the prison
should be as much as possible like that carried on outside. In connection with
this shop is a carpenter shop in which lumber is sawed and planed partly by
hand and partly by power machinery. The two large industries, however, are the
wood and the rattan furniture departments. Bilibid furniture has a world-wide
reputation. Here fine furniture is manufactured under the supervision of
trained foremen. The work is done on orders from people on the outside. When we
were there (January, 1928), the prison was eight months behind on the wooden
furniture and a year behind on orders for rattan furniture. These two
industries provide most of the profitable work of the prison. Most of the men
are employed in them. However, other industries are carried on, among them
being blacksmithing, carriage-making and repairing, tailoring, shoe-making and
repairing, machine woodworking, tinsmithing, and hammock-weaving. The women
make embroidery, do the domestic work of their department, make lace, weave and
crochet. For their products, especially embroidery and lace, there is a heavy
demand. One thing can be said, everyone able to do so works.

The organization of the industries
in Bilibid Prison, designed primarily to provide instructive employment for the
inmates and teach the earnest convicts a trade with which to earn a living
after they are released, provides for eight main departments in addition to
certain miscellaneous activities which also provide a measure of trade
training. The following description of the organization by Mr. Alzate,
Assistant Director of Prisons in the Philippines, concisely states the
organization:

We have at Bilibid Prison an
Industrial Division which is operated primarily to provide instructive
employment for deserving inmates and to teach every earnest convict a trade
with which to earn an honest livelihood after his release. With this end in
view, all the industries established in the various departments have been
organized into courses of training developed so as to fit the needs and
peculiarities of all industrial classes of inmates. The courses of training in
the various shops and industrial plants are so laid down that an inmate, when
he is received in prison, can be assigned in the calling for which he is best
fitted by nature, ability, or past experience. Each industry is placed under
the direction of a thoroughly competent Superintendent or Foreman, who is in
charge of shop operation, production, and training of the inmates.

The industries of Bilibid Prison
are divided into eight departments, numbered from A to H.

In Department A are various
mechanical trades. Here are the general machine shop, the electrical, the
automobile, and motorcycle repair shops, the carriage shop, the blacksmith
shop, the sheet metal shop, and shops for millwrighting, upholstering, and a
few other trades. These trades have value as training for prisoners who will be
discharged and also as profitable enterprises for the prison. Here you see
three hundred men working and repairing all sorts of articles appropriate to
such shops in the Philippines. Watch the men in the carriage shop making all
kinds of vehicles from carabao carts, heavy wagons, trucks, trailers, street
sprinklers, to the fine carriage for the grandee or the pony cart for his
children. All kinds of vehicles are repaired and repainted.

In that next building is
Department B, where three hundred fifty men make all kinds of furniture from
the various fine Philippine hardwoods such as nana, acle, lumbayao, lauan,
tonguile, tindalo, and camagon. A thoroughly competent furniture maker is at
the head. His assistants are skilled woodcarvers and polishers. Go over to the
storeroom where the finished products are kept until they can be sent to those
who have ordered them. These artistic tables, chairs, stools, cabinets, etc.,
have been produced by prisoners from the cutting of the trees on the penal
colony lands at Iwahig to the last polishing touch in Bilibid. While the main
purpose is to provide occupational training for the prisoners, so much in
demand is the product that they are usually behind orders. This department is
one of the most profitable in the prison. The men on discharge are in demand by
furniture manufacturers on the outside. This department is second only in
importance to Department D.  

Department C employs one hundred
fifty prisoners on the construction and repair of buildings for the prison and
on the manufacture and repair of equipment for the prison. Here the prisoner is
trained as carpenter and concrete build many designs, handsome tea-tables,
stools, bookracks, flower baskets. Here are bedsteads made of the hardwoods
mentioned above but with head and footboards woven of rattan and with rattan
bottom in place of our bed springs. Such beds are considered “the
thing” in that part of the world, although on the basis of my experience
in sleeping on one, I prefer an American bed spring. Split bamboo shades and
curtains are produced here. It is this furniture which first made Bilibid
furniture world-famous. The medals the prison has received on this furniture at
various expositions are as numerous and dazzling as those of a French or
Italian World War veteran’s. “Nuff said!” So popular is this type of
furniture in the Orient that a prisoner who has become skilled in this
department can easily get a job on the outside.

Department F is less fascinating
to the Westerner. It is the tailoring department. It makes all the clothes for
the inmates of the insular and provincial prisons and jails, as well as service
uniforms for sailors, police, etc. Some civilian clothes are also produced for
government officials. However, it cannot be said that the work of this department
fits a man to become a master tailor. Eighty prisoners are engaged in the work
of this department. The limitations of the tailor’s trade in the Philippines
may be suggested by the supposition that of approximately six million males in
the archipelago, perhaps five million require only a breech-cloth.”

– John Gillin, Taming the Criminal:
Adventures in Penology.
New York: The MacMillan Company, 1931. pp. 36-41.

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“The [Egyptian] citizenship law category consternation just described echoes the confusion of European-trained census takers who worked to measure the Egyptian population in the late nineteenth century. … In a sense, the malleable landscape of nationalities reflected in
these censuses appears a category game, in which the population was reclassified by different criteria each decade. As we will see in the next section,
however, nationality was anything but an abstraction: in the complex legal
landscape of turn-of-the-century Egypt, nationality determined jurisdiction
over the bodies of the territory’s subjects.  The confounding incoherence
of nationality categories in the Egyptian census shows that in a system of
overlapping sovereignty, identification is performative. Egyptians and Otto-
mans were labeled not for their own needs – the labels entailed no access
to rights – but for presentation to their imperial administrators. Like
nationality law, the census provides only unsteady ground for the study of
Ottoman-Egyptian citizenship.

The 1882 census was hardly the first to categorize Egypt’s population
by national type. The 1800 Description de l’Egypte described eight groups:
Egyptians, Turks, Arabs, Moors (specifically, Maghrabis), Greeks, Syrians,
Jews, and Europeans. The 1840 census divided the population between those under local authority (dakhil al-hukuma) and those beyond government authority (kharij al-hukuma).  A contemporary study of the 1855
cholera epidemic differentiated between eleven categories: Europeans,
Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Copts, Israelites, Natives, Turks, Maghrabis,
Barbaris, and Blacks.  

The 1882 census employed a new hierarchy of three major categories
(settled native, nomad, and foreigner), each of which was subdivided into
minor categories. The decennial censuses of 1897, 1907, and 1917 reduced
the decisive split to foreign and local. Local subjects (as opposed to foreigners) were subdivided in the four censuses in question… 

…four main groups adulterat[ed] a vision of a purely
Egyptian local population: Ottomans, Bedouins, Sudanese, and local subjects of European origin (such as Greeks). The 1897 census divided the local
population much as the one in 1882, but Sudanese were dropped, and the
divide between settled and nomadic Egyptians was set aside. Sedentary,
Bedouin, and Ottoman were all clearly labeled as “real” Egyptians. In 1907,
Sudanese reappeared, and certain Ottomans were divided into four “local”
nations. The 1907 census was the first since the inchoate Egyptian nationality law of 1900. Perhaps as a result, Ottomans appeared for the first time
as foreigners. Subdivision was extended ten years later: Egyptians were
distinguished according to sect, and four new miscellaneous population
categories were added. But only now, once it was divided in a dozen ways,
did “local” emerge as a distinct, collective category given a cumulative population figure of its own. In previous years, census makers offered an aggregate total of foreigners but never of local subjects. 

From the time of the 1882 census, settlement was the hallmark of a
national population; Bedouins and foreigners were anomalous because they
were mobile. Although the desert and sea hinterlands of the Nile valley
were sites of problematic flux, “real” Egyptians were suitable f(n· counting
because they were tied to the land and isolated from other nations. Turkish
and Syrian immigration had slowed, and Europeans were now the principal
immigrant group. Their “distinct social and political behaviour (al-mukhtalijiyin mashraban/situation sociale et politique apart) prevent[ed]
them being confused with the native population (zummt al-wataniyin),”
which was agrarian and sedentary. The census makers claimed that this
distinction was “social and political”; in reality, it was jurisdictional. Bedouins and foreigners were considered separately because they were exempt from the laws that governed other subjects. The distinction between real
Egyptians and all others made operative sense in terms of 1880s domestic
policy, according to which dangerous Bedouins were to be taken under
government control, foreigners were to be protected, and settled natives
were to be taxed. 

Nonstandard subjects were deficient subjects, and they tarnished the
census project. In an opening apologia, the authors of the 1882 census
distinguished their work, which only measured de facto population, from
the study of resident population that a proper European state required.
Only the systematization of civil status would make such a project possible
in Egypt. In other words, something like “indigenous nationality” had to
be clearly defined if Egypt was to join the community of nations. Subsequent censuses track the progress of this project. By 1917, a full range of
local nationalities joined the foreign diversity previously on display. It is
no surprise that census counts of national groups in Alexandria were as
inconsistent as the categories themselves. Although the overall population
of the city increased steadily from census to census to census, the share
assigned to each group fell and rose and rose and fell. 

Faced with these unwieldy categories, social historians are as otibalance
as the legal scholars cited in the previous section. Daniel Panzac has produced several studies of the population of nineteenth-century Egypt in
which he displays careful critical faculties. His suspicion of uneven growth
rates, for instance, leads him to a radical departure from census figures of
Egypt’s aggregate population.  But where nationality is concerned, his
work is in the thrall of the census and its categories and content to trace a
smooth growth rate for the foreign population, ignoring the fact that Ottomans appear and disappear from the census figures. Other studies of the
censuses avoid this trap, but their critical approach toward statistics rarely
extends to the categories employed.  This remarkable omission manifests
the allure of dividing population into singular nationalities that seem to
possess some inherent validity discouraging critical probing. 

Three pieces of evidence call into question the national categories of
identity used by census takers: the changing stock of categories used; the
inconsistent statistics that they produced; and the calculated, nuanced performances that court documents demonstrate lay behind most black-and-white claims to nationality. Census
makers certainly witnessed the same genre of performance on polling day.
Little is known of the details of their data collection.”

– Will Hanley, “When Did Egyptians Stop Being Ottomans? An Imperial Citizenship Case Study.” in Willem Maas (ed.), Multilevel Citizenship. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2013. pp. 89-109.

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