Prisoners at the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center perform a synchronized dance as part of their exercise routine in Cebu, central Philippines in this June 18, 2007 handout photo. Clips of the prisoners grooving in harmony to Michael Jackson's "Thriller" have created a stir on the internet with over a million views since it was posted on Youtube. Image Credit: Donald Moga/Cebu Provincial Information Office/Reuters
Prison Dance Gang Wins At i-CAUGHT
What some win may not be what you think.
What some of the inmates convicted in this corrupt prison system may be world scrutiny.
In a prison system where it would be easy to have someone “disappear” just because it would be easier to kill someone than to put them through a court case, dancing for YouTube may actually give these people an audit trail record for the world to see.
Now, if one of these prisoners happens to disappear, world watch organizations have a record that these people actually exist!
Excerpted from ABC News and Reuters
Prisoners' Dance: Celebration or Human Rights Violation?
Viral Video of Inmates Performing 'Thriller' Video Generates Concerns, Along With Clicks
By TRACIE HUNTE - Aug. 14, 2007
Share A video of 1,500 detainees in orange jumpsuits doing a beat-for-beat remake of Michael Jackson's classic video "Thriller" is the ultimate viral video. It's funny and weird, and the exotic location -- Cebu Province in the Philippines -- adds to its appeal.
The jail "Thriller" remake, uploaded to YouTube July 17, has been viewed 5 million times.
"I wanted something to thrill the world," said Byron Garcia, security consultant for the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center. He set up the dance and music program when he saw that the prison lacked a physical fitness regimen.
ABC News visited the jail to watch the final, completed version of "Thriller." The performance was to celebrate the founding of Cebu Province and to entertain the governor, Gwendolyn Garcia, Byron Garcia's sister. The governor's favorite is "Sister Act." "I just found it so hilarious, so melodious," Garcia said. "What an irony. They're right here in this jail, considered the rejects of society, and yet these rejects are now making our province and our country proud."
Byron Garcia said he was inspired to see the detainees dance while watching them do calisthenics from his perch above the exercise yard. Before uploading the soon-to-be legendary "Thriller" remake, he'd uploaded prison performances of the Village People's "YMCA" and "In the Navy," Queen's "Radio Ga Ga" and "I Will Follow Him," from the movie musical "Sister Act."
The men and women at CPDRC are all waiting for their cases to go to trial. They have been charged with crimes ranging from shoplifting to murder.
Melita Thomeczeck, the Philippines' deputy consulate general in New York, is not surprised by the CPDRC's unconventional rehabilitation regimen or the detainees' devotion to dance and music.
One person who doesn't want to add to Garcia's impressive YouTube view count is Dennis Abbarientos, from the Filipino human rights group Karapatan. "I resisted temptation to view it at YouTube, since I detested being counted as one of the viewers," Abbarientos told ABC News in an e-mail.
Since 2004, Karapatan has filed numerous complaints against Byron Garcia, his sister the governor and wardens at the prison, alleging inhumane treatment of detainees.
Garcia denied all this and said the dancing is proof that the prison is a model of modern criminal justice. "The inmates relate to me. I relate to them. You know? We have a good relationship now. Whatever I tell them to do, they do," Garcia said.
But Thomeczeck sees the possibility of the dance program having an even greater positive effect: "It's a way to put themselves together physically and probably spiritually. That's good, isn't it?"
Once one gets their head around this YouTube video ... it becomes pretty disturbing on many levels.
Is this really art?
Where is Sean Penn when we really need him? ... Oops, I forgot, he is only involved in something when it trashes the United States!