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Jails in the Philippines overpopulated by more than 500 per cent




Quezon City Jail. Picture via YouTube

Jails in the Philippines are overpopulated by an incredible 511 per cent as the total number of inmates has ballooned to 126,946.

These prisoners are all held in facilities with an official capacity of just 20,746.

The figures were revealed by the Commission on Audit (COA) today (Friday, June 16), along with the startling fact that prison numbers had increased by 30,544 in just one year.

The COA’s annual audit report concluded: “As of December 31, 2016, the BJMP (Bureau of Jail Management and Penology) has a total jail population of 126,946 which exceeded the total ideal capacity of 20,746 having a variance of 106,200 or has a total average of 511 percent of congestion/overcrowding or clogging.”

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This overcrowding not only violates the BJMP’s own “Manual on Habitat, Water, Sanitation and Kitchen in Jails” but also the United Nations’ “Minimum Standard Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners”.

Such overcrowding, the audit observed, not only caused issues of health and sanitation, but also led to increased gang activity.

“To sustain survival,” the report said, “inmates hold on to gangs or ‘pangkat’ where they find protection, network of social support and most important, access to material benefits, which are scarce in highly congested facilities.”

The COA blamed overcrowding on the “increase in the number of drug-related cases in the country” as well as a creaking justice system “due to lack of judges, postponement of hearings and the slow disposition of criminal cases that carry the penalty of reclusion perpetua or life imprisonment.”

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The audit also said that many detainees qualified to post bail remained in jail due to poverty. “Some cases were bailable but detainees who are below poverty line cannot afford to post bail so they were stuck in the jails,” the report read.

According to the report, jails in Central Luzon are the most crowded, having 12,490 inmates but with a total holding capacity of only 1,178 — a 961 per cent congestion rate.

In contrast, jails in the Autonomous Region in Muslim Mindanao (ARMM) only have a one per cent congestion rate, with 278 inmates and a holding capacity of 275.

The report said that there was a serious problem in constructing jails, with some built in small spaces and other new facilities plagued by delays in construction.

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Two municipal jail buildings, one in Ilocos and one in Pangasinan, were highlighted for being funded as early as 1996 but still incomplete. A jail in Alegria, Surigao del Norte, which began construction 16 years ago, also remains unfinished.

Also failing to meet target completion dates are four jails in Western Visayas and jail buildings in the Zamboanga Pensinsula, worth 12.4 million pesos and 13.7 milliion respectively.

The report somewhat obviously concludes that the government should build more jails and expand existing ones.