Sunday, January 31, 2010

They Don't (Really) Care About Us


Who would have thought that a correctional institution such as the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC, Cebu, Philippines) could rise to fame via youtube? But no, it is not the means that they rose to fame that is phenomenal but the fact that these are inmates dancing to different popular tunes with the choreographic moves of professionals.

Their latest vid -- a tribute to Michael Jackson featuring the MJ song, "They Don't Care About Us". The inmates in this maximum security prison was visited by no less than Michael Jackson's long-time choreographer Travis Payne and dancers Daniel Celebre and Dres Reid to learn performances from THIS IS IT.

This is not their first vid, they have had several other performances before this which have caught worldwide attention when these vids were uploaded to the biggest and most popular video website, youtube.

It all started with an attempt to diffuse a volatile situation with a full-blown prison riot brewing. Extracting the idea from another movie that the warden, Byron F. Garcia, had seen previously, where an inmate walked into the warden's office and spoke via the public address system which created a huge impact bringing about a positive change --but that's scripted because it was in a movie, while the CPDRC case was real-life.

When the jail warden played the song "Another One Bites the Dust" which was stored in his USB flash drive along with two other songs, the volatile situation was calmed and the riot did not happen. It's been three straight years now that this maximum security prison has been riot-free.

It wasn't overnight success either, and the inmates did not right away welcome the choreographers. When they eventually agreed to participate, it took a long while to teach them the moves but everything paid off well. They now have numerous dance performances captured on video and uploaded to the internet.

There are various concerns as to the possible misleading effect of the popularity of these inmates against the concept of correction and rehabilitation but who would argue with the positive effects it gives now? Physically healthy inmates (what with all that physical exercise they get from dancing), mentally healthier inmates that are veered away from boredom inside the institution and a generally happier and more cheerful environment inside the confines of maximum security.

It is absurd to think that one would intentionally commit a serious crime to join the dancing inmates (I personally don't think one would do it intentionally) but for those who are already committed there, it is a relief to know that they are in one of the safest prison environment in the land-- where they dance their time away. Whatta whole new way to DO TIME.

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