WHILE Independence Day means celebration of liberty for a lot of people, it is a celebration of human development for people behind prison bars.
The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) redefined freedom as the recognition of opportunities residents of the city jail can avail of in the span of their detention - education, livelihood, religion and recreation of their holistic recovery.
Through the rehabilitation programs set by the BJMP, residents are able to engage themselves in activities, which enable them to heal and redefine themselves.
"Pag nabuo mo yung pagkatao mo, nagiging malaya ka sa bondage of the past," Chief Inspector Mary Ann Tresmanio, of the Baguio City Jail Warden Female Dorm, said.
Free access to education is among those special privileges provided inside the city jail.
In collaboration with the Department of Education, the BJMP is implementing the Alternative Learning System, which provides education to jail residents who were not able to get through at least elementary or high school.
There is usually one class each for male and female dormitory composed of 30 and around 10 students, respectively.
Through the ALS, the screened students gain knowledge and formal education to give them a chance at a better future once released.
Another batch of interested and qualified applicants will be fortunate to experience education as ALS is again expected to commence this month.
Meanwhile, jail is no reason residents are unable to showcase their talents, push their passions and earn for living through their fields of interest and expertise.
The livelihood program, in partnership with the Technical Education Skills and Development Authority (Tesda), gives the residents the chance to express themselves through their crafts. It also serves as a mode of therapy for them.
"We will give them all ng pwede nilang matutunan para maempower sila. Para pag labas nila, maging productive na sila," Tresmanio noted.
In males, 50 are actively involved in tambo crafts making; seven in carpentry; six in paper weaving and rug making; six in steel works; and two in painting.
In females, 14 are engaged in cross-stitching; nine in community massage; four in commercial cooking; two in mini-store keeping; two in paper crafts; two in bag and purse recyclables; and two in beads crafts.
The products are oftentimes put up for sale and even as entries in competitions.
Tremasmanio said the baking expertise of the Baguio City Jail Female Dorm Association caught the interest of the Department of Labor and Employment-Cordillera and plans to launch a bakery in front of the city jail office around August is underway.
The bakery will be run by the residents with the supervision of the BJMP personnel.
Furthermore, the positive attitude of the residents towards the projects was made possible through the conducive conduct of the Therapeutic Community Modality Program.
This encourages them to participate in physical exercises, sports activities, group counseling and interfaith fellowship and Bible study to make them change their routine and views in life into something more healthy and positive.
A 56-year-old female resident who have been in the city jail for four years shared being there takes time to adjust.
"We come to a point where we all cry," she said.
But she said the rehabilitation programs are big help to them. The longing for their families eases and they gain feeling of belongingness to the new community they belong to which make them see themselves normal again.
The conduct of programs in the BJMP community during celebrations of events such as Mother's Day, Father's Day, Women's Day and the like rendered for them are also other boosters of their self-esteem.
"Kahit na kami po ay mga inmates, parang nabibigyan po kami ng importance," she ended.
Aside from the usual personal visits, the residents are also allowed to accept "e-dalaw" or a 10-minute Skype video call and chat service granted to residents whose families are incapable of visiting them.
The BJMP assured jail is no place where residents are just locked up for punishment. Tresmanio clarified their mandate is to provide a shelter for safekeeping and humane development for those in conflict with the law.
Jail Chief Inspector Wilson Banaseo cleared they treat the residents as "clients" who are in need of their service - moral help.
In there, nobody is a criminal. They are all members of a community striving for a peaceful and a more productive life.
"Kung ano yung pwede nating ibigay provided by law, we must give it to them because they are (still) entitled to it," Banaseo ended.
An empowered, independent and better self. These are what make jail residents free from whatever bondage they have in the past. An unusual definition of independence not everybody knows.