Friday, 19 July 2013

Philippine Jail Trivia

I don't know why I thought that getting permission to live behind bars for a month was going to be easy!  My experience here in the Philippines is that nothing is easy when it comes to approaching the authorities.  It is always a case of ... "The answer is no!  Now what is the question?"

On the other hand, I have learned however that there is always a way if you just don't give up!!   We'll go there in another blog.

First I will give you a bit of Philippine Jail Trivia....

Jails are where inmates are detained while under trial and awaiting their promulgation (judges decision) or as we would say in the U.K. "while on remand". This process allegedly takes 3 years (though I know inmates who have been in jail as long as 18 years without being sentenced). In my 30 years experience working with inmates, I would say that for a case of simple theft it could possibly be done in 3 years, but for other cases it is more like 6-8 years minimum waiting for a decision (which is why the jails are so severely overcrowded- often as many as 50-100 in one cell).

There are different types of jails here. The Municipal Jails are run by the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) and inmates are usually detained here until their cases are filed in court.  The District or City Jails are also run by the BJMP.  The Provincial Jails however, are run by the Office of the Provincial Governor. 

What does all this mean?  Simply this, the Provincial Jails are much less strict than those run by the BJMP.  Inmates in Provincial Jails have the luxury of using cell phones and going to hospital in cases of emergency without having to secure a court order first.  When female inmates have their babies they can wean them for a few weeks before they have to find them a home.  In the BJMP jails there are strictly no babies or children allowed.  We have taken babies into care as young as 2 hours old! 

In the BJMP District jails, the inmates have to wear yellow t-shirts to get out of their cell either to receive a visitor or to attend religious activities.  Provincial inmates do not.
BJMP jails have programs and services provided to help rehabilitate inmates, Provincial Jails do not.

In all jails the inmates are given a very basic food ration and that is all.  They are not given soap, shampoo, toothpaste, toilet tissue, soap to wash clothes or other basic hygiene essentials, which just adds to the pain and frustration of inmates who have no visitors (though of course for inmates with money, these things can be purchased inside).

In some jails there are now wooden beds provided, but no mattress or foam to cover them. These were not initially given to provide the inmates with comfort, but rather so that there could be bunks to accommodate more inmates.  In the cells with higher ceilings bunks are 3 storeys high (4 in some cases where they use the floor as the lowest bunk!!). The wooden bunk usually serves also as storage space for all the inmates'  belongings.  Each cell usually has one bathroom/toilet (bath being a bucket of water) to accommodate all the inmates, but in newer facilities this is being improved.

 If you want to see what a typical jail is like you can go to this link I found on YouTube:  

Once a sentence is pronounced the inmates are transferred to the Bureau of Corrections (prison) to serve their sentence.  There are only a few Correctional facilities in the country, the main being Muntinlupa's New Bilibid Prison for men and Mandaluyong Correctional for women (though there are a few others) where there are literally 10's of thousands of inmates.

Whilst this all seems terrible to us in the west, these are actually vastly improved and far more humane conditions from when I first visited the jails in 1983. The BJMP incidentally, was only established in January 1991.

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