By Ben R. Rosario
The country’s 463 detention facilities that could hold only 20,746 inmates are currently cramped with 126,946 detention prisoners, or 511 percent more than their maximum-occupancy capacity, thus, exposing the occupants to serious health risks and dangerous living conditions.
The Commission on Audit (COA) made this observation as it noted that inmate population in jails under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) increased by 32.09 percent or 30,937 in 2016, compared to the preceding year.
COA said the increase in jail population could be attributed to the parallel increase in the number of arrests made by police on drug-related cases.
The audit agency added that the slow grind of justice brought about by lack of judges, postponement of hearings and slow disposition of criminal cases” that carry a penalty of life imprisonment also contribute to the congestion of jails.
“The total jail population of 126,946 as of December 31, 2016 exceeded the total ideal capacity of 20,746 with a variance of 106,200 or a total average occupancy rate of 511 percent did not conform with the BJMP Manual on Habitat, Water Sanitation and Kitchen in Jails and with the United Nations Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, resulting in unhealthy living conditions of the inmates caused by heavy congestion,” COA reported in its 2016 annual audit of BJMP.
While the recruitment of additional 500 jail personnel was successfully carried out last year, a substantial increase in crime suspects awaiting trial for their alleged crimes was noted by COA.
Congestion in jails leads not only to health and sanitation problems but also to increased gang affiliation of inmates,” COA warned.
Audit examiners said inmates resort to this to “find protection, network of social support and access to material benefits.”
According to COA, many inmates face bailable offenses but are given no choice but to remain in detention due to their failure to raise bail.
“Moreover, lots where some jail buildings were constructed were of limited space, hence, construction or expansions horizontally of the said buildings may not be possible,’ the audit report said.
To address the problem, COA asked BJMP to construct more jail buildings and cells, locate more possible jail sites and further intensify the Good Conduct Time Allowances in order to release inmates who may have already served the possible sentence they are liable to.
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