Secure and Isolated

Secure and Isolated

Republic Act 11928, or the ‘Heinous Crime Facility’ Law, mandates the state to establish an isolated prison like the famous Alcatraz prison in the United States for offenders of heinous crimes. In this still photo, Alcatraz, also known as the Rock, is seen from an aerial view from the 1979 film ‘Escape from Alcatraz’ which was adapted from the 1963 non-fiction book of the same name by J. Campbell Bruce and directed by Don Siegel. (Photo courtesy: Golden Gate Hotel)

You get to Alcatraz by being the worst of the worst. Unless you’re me. I came here because my mother said I had to.

— Popular writer Gennifer Choldenko

CALOOCAN CITY, Metro Manila — There is a small island in San Francisco Bay, some 2 kilometers offshore from the city of San Francisco, which was developed in the mid-19th century with facilities for a lighthouse, a military fortification, and a military prison.

In 1934, the island was converted into a federal prison named the Alcatraz Federal Penitentiary. The strong currents around the island and cold water temperatures made escape nearly impossible and the prison became one of the most notorious in American history. The prison was closed, however, in 1963 and to date, the island has become a major tourist attraction.

And now the Philippine government plans to soon establish an Alcatraz-type of prison for offenders of heinous crimes. This would soon be made possible as the proposed bill seeking to establish a separate facility for heinous crime convicts has already lapsed into law last July 30, 2022—without the signature of then President Rodrigo Duterte.

Republic Act (RA) 11928 or the ‘Heinous Crime Facility’ Law mandates the establishment of a state-of-the-art facility with surveillance cameras, the latest information, and a security system capable of monitoring prisoners 24/7. It also includes enhanced and extensive security features on locks, doors, and perimeters.

Furthermore, the measure provides that a separate facility be located in a “secured and isolated place” to prevent unwarranted contact or communication of prisoners with the outside ‘world’.

RA 11928 also states that three facilities for high-level offenders, or those who had been convicted of reclusion Perpetua, shall be erected in Luzon, Visayas, and Mindanao, respectively.

It appears that the establishment of a Philippine Alcatraz would benefit our jail management and penology system since at this point in time, most of our prisons are overpopulated not only double but on some occasions triple the desired number of prisoners. So an Alcatraz-like ‘New Bilbid’ for heinous crime offenders would lessen somehow the problem of decongestion in our jails.

But just one aspect that we should remember is the fact that on March 21, 1963, USP Alcatraz closed after 29 years of operation. It did not close because of the disappearance of criminals Frank Morris and the Anglins Clarence and John, but the decision to close the prison was made long before the three disappeared. The truth of the matter is Alcatraz was closed because the institution was too expensive to continue operating.

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