Prison Overpopulation remains to be an unresolved problem that the Philippines is facing and which has been facing since 2000. Yet we have never heard about it being solved. The news or the media in general do not usually report on this issue because the government has never come up with a plausible and lasting solution to this problem, thus people are unaware of the appalling nature our prison inmates are facing inside our penitentiaries. Overcrowding is the main concern for the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) which has administrative control over the country’s 1,132 city, district and municipal jails. According to the Bureau, the nationwide jail population rose from about 35,000 in 2000 to more than 58,000 in 2009, with estimates reaching as high as 72,934 in 2012. Congestion is highest in the New Bilibid Prison, which is one of the 24 overcrowded prisons in the NCR region, the prison maintains 65% of the total prison population (National Survey of Inmates and Institutional Assessment).
The European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhumane or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) recommends the use of a four square meters per person measurement of a cell for an acceptable level of crowding. The cells in the New Bilibid prison measures at most 6 square meters, more than enough for a single person but not quite enough for two if the international standards are to be based upon. Overcrowded prisons like New Bilibid prison confines as much as 4 to 5 people into a cell designed for single occupancy. These conditions can lead to a host of psychological and physical problems of whose effects can hamper the inmates reintegration to normal civilian life upon their release. The most common of these psychological problems are anxiety, depression, increased aggression, decreased intimacy and hopelessness, these decrease the inmates quality of life and capabilities in functioning as a member of society.
Although the psychological problems of prison overcrowding are severe, the physical aspects are what should be focused on because the problems faced in the prisons could easily become the problems of a normal citizen. The increase in physical contact, the lack of ventilation, and an increased exposure to filth promotes disease propagation in overcrowded cells. According to the National Commission on Correctional Health Care (NCCH) Pulmonary Tuberculosis and Pneumonia,not to mention skin disease like measles, are the most common diseases in overcrowded prisons with the symptoms appearing 41 and 37 times more frequent respectively, than in the general population.
The majority of these diseases are highly contagious thus civilians that have come into direct contact of infected inmates or prison staff could easily transmit and transport the sickness out of the prison and into the general population. Based on all the stated facts Prison Overpopulation and all it entails, should be tackled effectively and with the inmates interests at heart. The government should set up penal colonies on uninhabited islands away from the general public but still under the watchful eye of the law. The inmates would be self sufficient, planting and harvesting their own food, electing leaders, etc. This would greatly prepare them for reintegration into civilian life.
First, Construction of facilities on uninhabited islands would be faster, It should be in our moral interests that inmates need not suffer prolonged inhumane conditions, that their relocation to a more hospitable environment be as quick as possible. This cannot be achieved in the cities because the City Planning and Development Office (CPDO) is very strict about proposed projects. Normally before a major structure can begin to be constructed, approximately 14 weeks of inspections, permit acquisitions and validations by numerous government and non government entities are required. On the other hand an uninhabited island requires little to no paperwork to begin construction especially if it is government sanctioned, construction can begin almost instantly. thus shortening the time inmates have to wait in their current states.
Second, It is harder to escape from an island than from a city prison. the expanse of water surrounding the island is a very effective deterrent against the idea or attempt of escape, security personnel that are posted on boats around the island could easily monitor the surrounding coastlines and personnel inside the islands posted on higher ground can watch over the inmates
Third, Overall inmate psychological and physical health would dramatically increase. A penal colony function similarly to normal society, the inmates provide for themselves, they plant their food and harvest it, they can make their own wares, elect their own leaders similar to barangay captains. An inmate in a penal colony can feel as if they are not in a prison at all, it is as if they are just another normal functioning community. This change of mindset could improve the mental health of the inmates, while the ample space reduces the health risks that come with overcrowding.
Overall a penal colony lets the inmates live their lives just like us yet away from us. One of the main points of prison is that “Individuals who have broken the laws of society must live outside of it” ( Boussard, 2002). Penal colonies still satisfy this, the only difference is that living conditions are much better, where they can function like real humans, not like animals in a cage. We sometimes forget that prisoners are also humans and being human means making bad decisions.
Gaes, G. (1985) The Effects of Overcrowding in Prison. Retrieved from http://www.jstor.org/discovery
Tesoro, V. (2013) The Bureau of Correction on my mind. Retrieved from http://philippineprisons.com/tag/penal-colonies/
Rosal, A. (2014) Inhumane and Degrading prison conditions. Retrieved from http:// www.karapatan.org/features-inhuman-degrading-PHprison-conditions
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