POLICE have been sent to help secure the Cebu City Jail (CCJ) in Barangay Kalunasan after several jail guards tested positive for the coronavirus disease 2019 (Covid-19).

City Councilor Dave Tumulak also clarified that there was no riot inside the facility on Wednesday, April 22, 2020.

“Inmates held a noise barrage when they noticed the police stationed outside, which coincided with them being told that several of their fellow inmates had been infected by the coronavirus,” Tumulak said in Cebuano.

He said some inmates joked around that they’d soon be released because of the development, while others wanted the inmates who tested positive to be removed immediately and for those facing petty crime charges to be temporarily released.

As of Thursday, April 23, the total number of infections at the CCJ was 129: 116 inmates and 13 jail personnel.

To better protect inmates and jail personnel, the City Government turned over 1,500 face masks and 200 face shields to Warden Julius Arro on Thursday.

Arro, for his part, said that despite the high number of infection, they are capable of maintaining peace and order inside the facility with its more than 6,000 inmates with the help of operatives from the Cebu City Police Office.

“Because of the cases involving our personnel, we have a depleted force. But still, we assure the public that we are able to secure the facility with the help of personnel from the other law enforcement agency that are stationed outside to monitor the situation inside,” he said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Call for donation

Tumulak, who has been tasked to monitor the CCJ, said the different heads of jail cells have agreed that all the inmates will stay inside their cells. Also, they will help disinfect the whole facility.

Meanwhile, the Commission on the Laity of the Archdiocese of Cebu has appealed to the public to donate washable face masks and 15 days’ worth of vitamin C supply to CCJ inmates.

In the face of asymptomatic Covid-19 patients and congested jails, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) 7 said they are working hard to contain the spread of the virus by isolating those who tested positive.

Jail Supt. Renante Rubio, assistant director for administration and chairman of the BJMP 7 Task Force Covid-19, said the CCJ is 1,106 percent congested.

That means the jail capacity is only 523, but its current population is 6,604, he said.

By transferring inmates to the new annex that can house around 2,500 persons, Rubio said they hope to stop the virus from spreading.

He also assured that they’ve already isolated those who tested positive and the inmates they’d been in contact with, saying they’ve all been housed inside separate wards.

Although it’s difficult to implement social distancing inside the CCJ, he said they’ve disinfected cells and made alcohol, soap and hand sanitizers readily available.

“All cells are congested,” Rubio said, adding they are doing their best to avoid transmission among inmates and personnel.

No threat

Rubio said they’ve pacified inmates who were in an uproar over the number of Covid-19 cases inside the facility.

He said the police and military deployed outside the jail are there to secure the facility’s perimeter.

“We want to make it clear that there is no threat within the jail facility,” he said.

The BJMP 7 also distributed face masks and vitamins to the inmates.

Jail S/Insp. Jay Ylanan, chief of the health service division and the BJMP 7 Task Force Covid-19 spokesman, said the CCJ has been on lockdown for a month. They’d isolated inmates who’d showed symptoms of the disease as early as the beginning of April, he said.

Ylanan assured the inmates’ families that safety measures are in place to contain infection

The Department of Health-Central Visayas earlier recommended the isolation of inmates and CCJ personnel who tested positive for the coronavirus.

In light of what’s happening at the CCJ, Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia plans to ask personnel of the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC), which is also located in Barangay Kalunasan, to remain in the facility.

“We are also thinking that it might reach a point that we will ask our jail guards not to go home so as not to expose the inmates further,” she said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

Taking the initiative

The governor said she doesn’t want to risk the jail guards getting infected by family members or neighbors, especially if they live in Cebu City barangays that have Covid-19 positive cases.

Garcia said they need to take the initiative while CPDRC is still disease-free.

She said she will talk to jail officials to discuss the jail guards’ sleeping arrangement.

“I am asking our jail warden to prepare. They have to look for an area that can be converted into living quarters where jail guards can stay for 14 days since they’ll be asked to do 14-day shifts,” Garcia said in a mix of Cebuano and English.

To ensure proper sanitation inside the CPDRC, the Province has installed disinfecting stations for inmates and jail officials.

It also conducts regular disinfection inside the facility, which houses close to 1,700 inmates.

Garcia ordered jail officials to strictly implement social distancing and to make sure inmates observe proper personal hygiene.

The governor assured inmates’ relatives that the Province is doing everything to keep their loved ones safe.

“We are doing the best that we can. We’ve long suspended visitation rights to avoid exposing those inside to the disease. Aside from regular disinfection of the facility, inmates have also been given time to exercise. So far they’re doing okay,” Garcia said in a mix of Cebuano and English. (JOB, PAC, ANV / PJB)