BJMP admits PH jails, including those in Metro Cebu, are congested

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Saturday, August 30, 2014


FAILING to address congestion in jails is a violation of some rights of criminals and crime suspects awaiting trial, according to a Commission on Human Rights (CHR) 7 official.

“They (inmates) are subjected to harsh conditions in jail,” said CHR's Leo Villarino.

“They are exposed to unnecessary risks. Those who are not sick will eventually get sick inside.”

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He said a person who is arrested for committing a crime must not be neglected. “They are still entitled to other basic human rights,” he said in a phone interview.

In a forum on jail congestion yesterday, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) legal services acting chief Roy Valenzuela said major jails in Metro Cebu have a current population of 4,959 inmates, way beyond the ideal 1,366.

He said the country’s major jails—including those in the cities of Lapu-Lapu, Cebu, Mandaue and Danao—are congested.

Decongest

Jose Midas Marquez, court administrator of the Supreme Court (SC), learned during his visit of the Mandaue City Jail last Thursday that the facility is filled beyond its capacity.

“We are looking for ways to decongest jails,” he told reporters.

The SC initiated the Justice on Wheels program (mobile court) and Judgment Day, which is an event when courts hear and decide cases on the spot. Both programs aim to decongest jail facilities.

Marquez said they also plan to create a committee in Cebu that will monitor the cases of detainees.

Overcrowding in prisons poses health risk to inmates, according to the International Committee of the Red Cross.

A United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) report also noted that the health of inmates deteriorate due to overcrowded jails; poor nutrition, exercise and fresh air; and inadequate sanitation.

In the past six months, BJMP recorded 160 deaths of inmates in different jail facilities in the country.

BJMP noted that cardiac arrest is the leading cause of deaths among inmates, registering 67 casualties. The other causes of deaths are acute myocardial infarction, which killed 19 inmates; pneumonia, four deaths; pulmonary tuberculosis, 20; kidney diseases, five; hypertension, 12; acute respiratory failure, three; high risk community acquired pneumonia, four; cerebrovascular accident (stroke), four; coronary heart disease, two; congestive heart failure, two; bronchial asthma, six; and other illnesses, six.

TB cases

Last year, BJMP 7 recorded more than 130 cases of tuberculosis (TB) in Central Visayas.

Last month, the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) reported that 60 inmates were infected with measles.

Aside from congestion, Valenzuela said BJMP-run jails also lack staff, computers, office and health equipment. They also do not have enough funds for jail improvement and detainees’ welfare projects.

Valenzuela said most of the jails managed by BJMP are also dilapidated.

In Lapu-Lapu City, the jail facility was built for 160 prisoners. But it houses 1,262 inmates.

The Cebu City Jail's was designed for 819 inmates, but it has 2,355 occupants at present.

The jail in Mandaue City was constructed to accommodate only 65 inmates. But it houses 1,020.

In Danao City, the jail has a capacity of 58 detainees, but it has 322.

Valenzuela said BJMP has 456 jails nationwide and an inmate population of 78,824, instead of the ideal number of 20,000.

He said only three percent of the detainees were convicted by courts.

BJMP has 10,858 employees nationwide.

Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on August 30, 2014.

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