QC warden: How to reduce jail population amid drug war
Compared with other detainees, drug inmates are staying longer at the overcrowded Quezon City Jail due to the slower progress of drug cases in courts, according to its warden.
Citing this reason, Supt. Randel Latoza said he supported the proposal of the Public Attorney’s Office to allow “small-time” drug inmates to enter into a plea bargain with the government to decongest the country’s jail system. The Quezon City Jail was built for a maximum of 280 inmates but it currently holds 2,700, he said.
“You can see that those drug cases comprise a big percentage in relation to the jail population. This means the dispensation of drug cases is slow. Those who are getting out are prisoners with nondrug cases. Those with drug cases are still inside,” Latoza said in a forum on Thursday.
Since the Duterte administration launched its war on drugs last year, the number of drug inmates at the city jail has risen from 50 percent of the jail population to a high of around 70 percent, before settling down to around 60 percent, he said.
“There was a point [where] we had 4,100 inmates. We had to stop getting new prisoners and had them transferred to other jails,” Latoza added.
To help decongest the jail, he has asked the courts to grant temporary liberty to inmates charged with illegal possession of drug paraphernalia while their cases are being heard. The offense carries a penalty of six months in jail.
“These inmates had stayed in jail longer than six months—longer than the penalty for their alleged crime—so we asked the courts to allow them to leave jail while their cases are heard. Their cases continue and, if they fail to show up in court for their hearing, an arrest warrant is issued against them,” he added.
Latoza said the jail was also trying to improve programs to reform inmates since their “reoffending rate” had reached 40 percent, higher than the national average of 28 percent.
“This means that for every 10 inmates released, four come back (because they committed another crime),” he said.