Alarmed by recent reports of severe overcrowding in the detention cells, Senator Nancy Binay has filed a measure seeking the automatic release of prisoners who have already served the prescribed period in custody for their offenses.
“It is the policy of the State for the humane treatment of inmates and prisoners. Yet, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has recently admitted that its jails are now congested by 583 percent,” said Binay.
Several news reports cited BJMP as saying that 142,013 prisoners have been crammed into 466 jails nationwide as of June 30. This is much higher than last year’s 98,000 detainees.
Concerned, the legislator filed Senate Bill No. 1263 which sought the automatic release of inmates who have served time that is equal to or more than the prescribed maximum imprisonment for their offenses. The bill covers all correctional and detention facilities, whether they are under the jurisdiction of the BJMP or the Bureau of Corrections.
The lawmaker reasoned that releasing the said detainees would not only address the perennial problem of overcrowding in jails but would also allow for a more humane treatment of the detainees.
According to news reports, Pulilan Municipal Jail in Bulacan is the most overcrowded amongst BJMP’s facilities, having a congestion rate of 3,590 percent. Intended to house only four inmates, this facility currently has 159 detainees.
The Biñan City Jail in Laguna is also facing the same problem, housing 595 prisoners even though its capacity is only for 22 inmates-a congestion rate of 2,603 percent.
“Dalawa pa lamang ito sa mga detention facilities natin na sobra-sobra sa kapasidad ang mga inmates. Napakarami pang mga pasilidad ang may ganitong problema at dagdag na isyu pa dito ang kakulangan rin sa mga tauhang nagbabantay sa mga nakapiit,” the senator pointed out.
The BJMP has admitted in news reports that it is undermanned with only 11,731 officers and personnel. Of this number, only 7,000 have custodial functions, a meager number compared to the 86,933 drug peddlers and users authorities have arrested since the government’s campaign against drugs began on July 1, 2016.
News reports also say that the present custodial personnel to inmate ratio is one jail guard for every 63 prisoners, while the ratio for escorting prisoners to court hearings is one jail guard per 33 inmates.
“Layunin ng panukalang batas na ito na maibsan ang problema ng BJMP at mabigyan ng makataong trato ang mga nakakulong sa mga pasilidad ng nasabing ahensya. Kitang-kita naman natin na sadyang kulang ang pasilidad para sa mga nakakulong sa ngayon,” said Binay.
“Kung dati pa lamang ay siksikan na sila sa kakarampot na mga seldang nakalaan sa kanila at halos hindi na magkandaugaga ang mga jail guards sa pagbabantay sa kanila, isipin na lang natin kung gaano kalala ang kanilang sitwasyon ngayong mas dumami ang nakakulong,” she added.