Vulnerable, at-risk prisoners ask SC for temporary release amid COVID-19 crisis

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A group of prisoners considered vulnerable and at-risk to COVID-19 infection asked the Supreme Court for a temporary release amid the pandemic.

Twenty-three prisoners filed a petition by way of special civil action for certiorari on Wednesday. They asked the tribunal to direct their temporary release during “the duration of the state of public health emergency, national calamity, lockdown and community quarantine due to the threats of the COVID-19.”

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The group also said the Supreme Court might also grant their release through bail.

Rights lawyers represented the said prisoners. They urged the SC to order to create a Prisoner Release Committee which will study and implement the release of other vulnerable and at-risk detainees.

“Petitioners are praying for a fair chance at surviving the devastating impact of the COVID-19 outbreak in spaces that are not blighted with the overcrowding and lack of access to hygiene measures and medical care,” their plea read.

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The group of petitioners includes political prisoners and detainees who are elderly sick or pregnant, and are detained to crowded facilities where social distancing is “practically impossible.”

Also read: 5,200 prisoners die in Bilibid due to overcrowding, malnutrition

Vulnerable, at-risk prisoners ask SC for temporary release amid COVID-19 crisis

The Quezon City Jail earlier this week put 15 inmates in isolation after they had close contact with an inmate who died of suspected COVID-19 on March 25.

Health experts suggest social distancing, which is standing at least six feet away from each other, is one of the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology previously prisons in the country have exceeded more than five times its capacity, making social distancing almost impossible.

“The fatalities among the vulnerable sectors in these prisons will be staggering once COVID-19 sets in,” said the petitioners.

It could be remembered that Supreme Court ordered the release of Senator Juan Ponce Enrile through bail on humanitarian grounds amid a plunder trial.

Last month, the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) said their facilities are still COVID-19 free as inmates “try not to be close together.”

BuCor also suspended visitations in all of its facilities, except food deliveries that “go through stringent screening,” Chaclag said. He also said they bought personal protective equipment and a misting machine for disinfection.

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