Congestion eases, but jails still crowded to 5 times ideal capacity | Inquirer News

Congestion eases, but jails still crowded to 5 times ideal capacity

By: - Reporter / @jgamilINQ
/ 07:21 AM July 18, 2018

The good news is that the congestion rate has slightly eased. The bad news is that the country’s jails are crowded five times more than their ideal capacity.

A total of 143,972 crime suspects were packed inside 486 jails around the country as of June this year for a congestion rate of 578.21 percent, jail officials said on Tuesday.

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This was slightly lower than the 612 percent recorded at the end of 2017, with 146,302 detainees locked up inside the same number of district, city and municipal jails nationwide, according to officials of Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Also, the number of detainees as of June went down by 1.59 percent from 2017 yearend figures, a break from the steady increase in jail population from 2015 to 2017, they said.

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“If we compare the past six months of this year to the yearend population and the yearend congestion rate as of December 2017, both [jail] population and congestion have decreased,” BJMP spokesperson Senior Insp. Xavier Solda said in a press briefing.

Paralegal assistance

Solda attributed the slight decline in jail population to the BJMP’s efforts at providing paralegal assistance, as well as development program for the detainees.

During the first half of the year, 59,625 detainees were released through various modes.

The stark reality, however, remains that the jails are jammed with detainees undergoing trial for a wide range of crimes, but mostly for drug use, possession and sale.

Ideally, only 21,342 detainees should be occupying BJMP-run jails that have a total cell area of 100,305 square meters, and each detainee should have a “habitable floor area” of 4.7 sq m.

BJMP jails have come under the spotlight after the Commission on Audit (COA) reported that these were congested as an offshoot of the Duterte administration’s brutal crackdown on drugs.

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Officials admitted that 71 percent of the BJMP’s current detainees were facing drug charges in court.

It was the first time since 2011 that jail population slightly dropped, Solda said.

“What are the reasons? We have strengthened our paralegal support programs. We thank our courts for recognizing the paralegal officers of the BJMP. Plea bargaining also contributed for drug-related cases,” he said.

“Our paralegal officers coordinated through the courts to update cases of [persons deprived of liberty], so that’s why releases [were stepped up] because we were able to monitor just when they should be released, what the status of their cases were, if they have already served the minimum sentence,” he added.

Releases

Part of its decongestion initiatives was the release of detainees on recognizance, specifically those who were “probationable,” whose sentences were below six years, who had served jail time, had posted bail, and whose cases were dismissed, Solda said.

“As of June 2018, we committed 7,762, but we released 8,661—which means there were more people freed than committed for the month,” he said.

The BJMP also constructed 10 new buildings in 2017, and is lining up at least 50 more projects, including a new jail facility for Quezon City inmates who are currently packed in a cramped facility in Kamuning District. —With a report from Andrea Alcaraz

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TAGS: BJMP, Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, jail congestion, Xavier Solda
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