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Saturday, January 19, 2019

Editorial: Not a get-rid-of-jail pass

IT’S understandable that some provincial officials have considered handing over control of the provincial jail to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP). It says a lot about the state of affairs inside the Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC) that certain prisoners were allowed to park a car inside the prison compound, as well as raise gamecocks.

Worse, last Saturday’s pre-dawn search of the CPDRC and the Cebu City Jail turned up illegal drugs, cash, phones, WiFi devices, and other contraband in some inmates’ hands. No less than the region’s top police official reported that some drug users had passed themselves off as visitors, then went behind bars in order to buy and use shabu in the jail’s makeshift cells. The initial investigation suggests that the drugs were not “cooked” behind bars, but brought in by outsiders, possibly in the private parts of female visitors or possibly with the connivance of some jail guards.

The problem, however, appears to be worse in the Cebu City facility’s case, which is one reason the Capitol should rethink a plan to let the BJMP manage the provincial jail on its own.

From the citizens’ standpoint, the Capitol has so far been more transparent and more responsive to suggestions than the BJMP hierarchy. It is, thus, in a better position to improve conditions inside the provincial jail, for as long as it admits the need for informed advice—given the many challenges of running a jail and rehabilitating its occupants—and does its best to find individuals with the correct expertise.

Before last Saturday’s raid, the image most likely to be associated with the provincial jail was that of its dancing inmates, who have become a tourist attraction of sorts. Add to that the success of some of its livelihood programs, from baking bread and cakes to crafting bags and décor items, and it is easy to see that, despite its problems, the Capitol’s jail management had met with some success.

A second reason for the Capitol to keep managing the provincial jail is the need to gain valuable experience in managing services and facilities that shouldn’t have to be the concern of the central government. The Local Government Code of 1991 clearly states it: prisons and their management are part of the territory that municipalities, cities, and provinces must assume responsibility for. If the shift to a federal government gets underway, a greater number of public services and facilities will be devolved to regional and other local governments. So, unless it’s an admission of defeat, why give back some services or facilities now?
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