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Riot Island

08:11 Min
Riot Island

How Singapore’s open-concept prison on Pulau Senang ended in tragedy

16 Jan 2023 12:56pm

Did you know that Singapore once had an open-concept ‘prison island’? In 1960, a penal settlement was set up on Pulau Senang, an island about 13km from the mainland. There were no bars nor fences and detainees were free to roam the island, with guards going unarmed.

Secret society members arrested under the 1955 Criminal Law (Temporary Provisions) were sent there to rehabilitate through hard work and education. Then, it was hailed as a visionary concept for its low re-offending rate, until tragedy struck.

About the Show

A near-deserted island is transformed into a prison without bars, holding some of society’s most hardened gangsters. 

During the early 1960s, Singapore undertakes a revolutionary social experiment – to rehabilitate its most feared mobsters through sheer hard work. These young detainees, who have been held without trial, build a remarkable prison complex with their bare hands and it becomes the envy of world. Pulau Senang is a hailed as a beacon for prison reform but just three years later, the detainees riot. 

The attack sends shock waves around the world and sets in motion one of the largest criminal trials of the age. Secrets from Pulau Senang are soon revealed, where all is not what it seems.
 

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