Boogie Behind Bars: Inmates Dance the Days Away

A group of 900-plus Filipino prisoners dance to Michael Jackson's "Thriller."

ByABC News
July 26, 2007, 12:15 AM

Aug. 14, 2007 — -- The story below first ran on July 26, 2007. Since then, i-CAUGHT has traveled to the island of Cebu in the Philippines to report on the jailhouse video and speak to Byron Garcia, the director and choreographer of these incredible performances, which involve about 1,500 inmates.

The program will also introduce you to the lead actors in the "Thriller" piece and provide viewers with a front-row seat at the prisoners' final performance, which took place Aug. 1.

The prisoners at Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center may have seen "Jailhouse Rock" a few too many times.


Hundreds of inmates at the prison in Cebu, Philippines, have taken to performing large-scale dance numbers to such classics as Michael Jackson's "Thriller," Queen's "Radio Gaga" and several songs from the "Sister Act" films to help pass the time while serving sentences or awaiting trial.

"There's a time to dance and a time to sing," said chief administrator Patrick Rubio of the Directorate of Operations within the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in the Philippines.

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"If they say laughter is the best medicine, how much more for dancing?" Rubio said.

According to an eyewitness account of the facility by Adam Jasper of Vice magazine's Web site, the detention center is run by Byron F. Garcia, who posted videos of several of the dance numbers on YouTube to show off his prisoners' talent.

The most popular of the nine videos is the prison's reenactment of Michael Jackson's classic video "Thriller," which has already been visited by a whopping 1.3 million users since it was uploaded in April.

"While the goal is to keep the body fit in order to keep the mind fit, such may not happen if it is done in a manner deemed unpleasurable," Garcia told Filipino's Sun Star publication. "Music, being the language of the soul, is added to that regimen."

Melita Thomeczeck, the Philippine's deputy consulate general in New York, is not surprised by the prison's unconventional rehabilitation regimen.

"It's probably like some kind of 'ra-ra' event. Probably something the warden set up to pull their minds off other things."

The productions are huge more than 900 inmates are involved in the routines and though a small group of dancers makes up the core of the routine, every prisoner has a part and each one seems completely absorbed in the performance.