ACCORDING to the Commission on Audit (COA), jails in the country are overcrowded by a whopping 511 percent with the said congestion continuously worsening.
For statistics sake, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has recorded a total jail population of 126,946, extremely surpassing an ideal capacity of our jails which is 20,746.
The penal institutions in the country consists of provincial, district, city, municipal, extension jails and dormitories for female inmates. Most of these jails are supervised and managed by the BJMP while others are maintained local government units or the local police.
As per information from the said bureau, the ideal floor area for inmates is 4.7 square meters while the ideal number of inmates per cell is 10. The said size for the floor area of inmates is far lesser from the standards while the number of detainees is very much more than the ideal, on the other hand.
The sad fate of our detention facilities is not new. Perhaps, our jails are not given adequate attention by the government that detainees have no other recourse except to bear with the cramped space they occupy.
Some detainees have the impression that the poor condition they experience while in detention is all a part of the sentence they were given as a result of the infraction they made. However, detainees have rights too.
For some reasons, the congestion of jails may be attributed to the lack of adequate detention facilities, the slow pace of court cases resulting into congestion of court dockets and eventually into the congestion of either accused or convicted persons who are detained and the recent great number of those who were caught allegedly committing crimes involving illegal drugs.
Since the government has started its massive campaign against illegal drugs, a great number of drug personalities were either killed or put to jail. Those who were killed were buried while those who were apprehended were of course jailed and added to the country’s problem on jail congestion.
It seems that the problem on illegal drugs has been that serious that many were put behind bars due to illegal drugs, possession, use or trading. While the government has intensified its campaign on it, the population of jails has tremendously increased due to the number involved in illegal drugs activities.
Meanwhile, there are constructions of new jail facilities which were left pending due to various reasons. Some detention buildings were left unfinished for many years due to lack of funding or because of irregularities in the construction.
If only the construction of these penal facilities will be finally completed, they will be of great help in the country’s jail congestion and some detainees will experience great relief. Perhaps the government should give attention to our jails and to the people inside them.
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Published in the SunStar Pampanga newspaper on June 20, 2017.
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