Daily life

All prisoners are entitled to spend at least one hour a day in the open air


Prisoners have very easy access to exercise yards in the main prisons. Due to overcrowding, cell doors cannot be locked shut.

The prison service offers activities to prisoners


Opportunities for entertainment and learning are infrequent.
Still, some prisons manage to develop activities, which are varied: classes in morality offered by religious organisations, choirs, dance classes or workshops in manual activities, such as repair work or painting1.

  1. Getting along in the overcrowded prisons in the Philippines (Système D dans les prisons surpeuplées des Philippines) in Le Temps, 6 May 2016 (in French). 

  • Through dance, inmates of the Cebu prison have become famous. Videos of their choreographies can be seen on the internet 1. They participate, in 2010, in promoting “This is it” when they are contacted by Michael Jackson’s choreographer. Tourists and visitors can attend their shows once a month. A souvenir shop at the prison sells items made by the inmates.

    A televised cooking contest show takes place, in 2012, at the New Bilibid prison. It is part of a reintegration program that trains prisoners for a trade in anticipation of their release and encourages camaraderie between different gangs.

    1. Les prisonniers de Cebu reprenant les chorégraphies de Thriller, Gangnam Style and dancing for ″This is it.″ 

There are designated places for physical activities and sports


Reportedly, in 2014, the prison has tennis courts. Prisoners organise tournaments to which they invite professional players.
The administration at the Quezon prison encourages prisoners to be active all day. Aerobics sessions take place every morning on the basketball court1.

  1. Philippines drug war turns jail into a haven in Reuters, 9 November 2016. 

Work is compulsory


The administration does not provide prisoners with many work opportunities, beyond those in the prison farms. Some inmates, who possess expertise, make it available to their co-detainees as a way of making money. Small stands exist in the communal areas of a number of institutions, especially the New Bilibid prison. Prisoners ask regular visiters to bring items from the outside, which they then resell1.

The Correctional Institution for Women offers a work program, which allows women prisoners to develop professional skills and earn a little money. They can produce artisan products, raise pigs or poultry, or cultivate vegetables on a small scale.

The money earned by prisoners can help support their family on the outside.

Variation in the number of prisoners who work


The prison farms (see Parc immobilier) provide prisoners with work. All the prisoners in these institutions learn and exercise a trade. Those with high-risk profiles work indoors under supervision. Others develop outdoors as farmers, forest rangers, carpenters, even fishermen. Administration of the Iwahig prison farm is partly entrusted to 200 prisoners, while 1,000 others take responsibility for the crops1.

  1. Life inside the Philippines’ prison without walls  in Al Jazeera, 7 October 2015.