Bill seeks to decongest detention facilities

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Friday, March 7, 2014


IN AN attempt to decongest the country's cramped jails and other detention facilities, a lawmaker recently filed a measure that will imposed a mandatory community service instead of imprisonment for some non-serious offenses.

Las Piñas City Representative Mark Villar said that House Bill 3903 provides rendition of community service in lieu of detention for prisoners who are serving sentences ranging from one day to six months and those with six months or less remaining to serve.

Villar said the life of a prisoner serving sentence inside a prison camp can be very frustrating, unproductive, unhealthy or even harmful.

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"More than serving the sentence, what is more punishing to the inmates is extreme overcrowding, which may pose danger to life and health," Villar said.

The lawmaker cited a 2010 report of the Philippine Statistical Authority and the National Statistical Coordination Board, which showed that there were 59,289 inmates in the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) jails.

He noted that 56,479 or 95.3 percent were detained and 2,810 or 4.7 percent were sentenced and in addition, 1,147 were in jails of the Philippine National Police (PNP) on a temporary basis, an increase of five percent from 2009.

Villar added that the ideal jail density per inmate on the average of these 423 BJMP jails, which have a total cell area of 50,351 square meters, is 4.7 square meters. However, BJMP jails house more than four inmates too many.

According to the lawmaker, the national jail congestion rate, which is the number of extra inmates over the jail capacity in December 2010, was 446.1 percent. He also mentioned that the total number of prisoners in the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) penal institutions was 35,937.

Under the measure, Community Work Camps are created so that these individuals can take an active role in the development of communities and in the protection and rehabilitation of the environment.

The bill also provides for a preparatory rehabilitation phase for prisoners before they rejoin society.

Community service shall include tree planting, building artificial reefs, and participating in farm projects demonstration or other livelihood projects. Depending on their good behavior and performance, a part of the sentence can be reduced.

The bill mandates the Department of Justice to issue the necessary rules and regulations for the effective implementation of this Act in coordination with the Supreme Court and the Departments of Interior and Local Government, Agriculture, Environment and Natural Resources and National Defense. (Sunnex)

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