STEEL cages in the Philippines are, with all certainty, among the worst in the world. But what exactly has been causing extreme overcrowding in our jails?
Some would perhaps make a sweeping claim that would put the blame on the government’s dismal failure to address poverty. Others would say the rising crime incidents (for which most of the prisoners are jailed) goes hand in hand with the rapidly growing population.
A closer look into Philippine jails however seemed to point at the snail-paced court litigation as the very reason why many detainees (those in jail pending the verdict of the court) have remained in jail.
According to the Supreme Court, agencies in the justice sector should work on establishing new policies and initiatives to expedite the processing of criminal cases and alleviate jail congestion.
For years, the judiciary has been hopping from one place to another via its “Justice on Wheels” where detainees who have been staying long enough in jail are given a one-day litigation which would determine whether or not they’re guilty.
Layo or Laya, as detainees would say. Layo means guilty verdict for which a detainee would be immediately transferred to a national penitentiary – or laya, which is the Tagalog translation of freedom once the court rules to acquit them or dismiss the case.
Interestingly, even the national penitentiary facilities like the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP) in Muntinlupa City have become too small to accommodate more than 60% of the 51,000 inmates serving jail terms for crimes for which they were sentenced.
It is for this reason that the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) decided to transfer the so-called Bilibid Boys to six other penal colonies across the country.
Some would probably be raising their eyebrows and ask – Will relocation of NBP prisoners solve jail congestion?
The answer is no. But a closer look at the BuCor plans seemed logical.
More than decongestion, BuCor finds it rather imperative to adhere to the very purpose for which jails are made – reformation, and one way of reforming the prisoners is to give them a place where they can be productive, in this case as farmers.
That in itself is preparing them for the much-anticipated reintegration to the general population.
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