Prisons, detention facilities in Southeast Asia should release vulnerable, non-violent inmates — group
In this photo taken on March 27, 2020, prison inmates lie to sleep at the crowded courtyard of the Quezon City jail in Manila
AFP/Maria Tan
Prisons, detention facilities in Southeast Asia should release vulnerable, non-violent inmates — group
( - April 6, 2020 - 11:27am

MANILA, Philippines — Detention facilities in Southeast Asia should suspend arrests for non-violent offenses and release vulnerable people and those who pose little threat to public safety early to avoid the spread of the contagion in the region’s overcrowded jails.

The International Drug Policy Consortium (IDPC) laid down these recommendations as the confirmed cases of new coronavirus worldwide continue to pile up.

Because the new virus is transmitted easily through droplets, authorities say the best protection is staying home. But isolation is an unreachable luxury for hundreds of thousands crammed into small and overcrowded facilities in the Philippines, making them more vulnerable to the spread of COVID-19.

IDPC said the Philippines had the highest prison occupancy rate in the world in 2019, with overcrowding in jails reaching 534% in March 2020.

“Such cramped conditions and the fact that essential activities such as eating, showering and using the toilet are often communal, make it impossible to comply with advice on COVID-19 prevention, namely physical distancing,” the non-government organization said.

It added that people deprived of liberty are also more likely to have underlying health conditions and at higher risk of prevalence of HIV, viral hepatitis and tuberculosis, which increase their vulnerability to COVID-19 infection.

IDPC said authorities in Southeast Asia should suspend or reduce arrests and admission into detention facilities, including drug rehabilitation centers, for non-violent offenses, which include drug use and possession and violation of curfew and lockdown orders.

The organization also said that the elderly, pregnant women, children, people with health conditions, people awaiting trial and not convicted and those charged with minor offense must be granted early release. Iran, Afghanistan and Indonesia released thousands of prisoners to lower the risk of a major outbreak of the virus in prisons.

IPDC added that prison authorities should also improve standards of sanitation and hygiene, ensure supply of personal protective equipment, ensure availability of COVID—19 testing, isolation facilities for quarantine and access to medical treatment and enable people deprived of liberty to maintain outside communication by allowing phone or online calls.

15 inmates isolated

Fifteen inmates in Quezon City Jail were isolated after they came in contact with an inmate who died of suspected COVID-19 infection last week. The Quezon City Jail houses around 3,800 inmates.

But Bureau of Jail Management and Penology spokesman Xavier Solda said the jail immediately conducted contact tracing and isolated the detainees held in the same jail cell with the deceased inmate.

Last month, the Bureau of Corrections suspended visitation privileges in all its prison facilities across the country. As of January 2020, there were 49,114 inmates in BuCor-manned prisons.

BJMP also suspended jail visits a day later. Around 134,549 persons deprived of liberty are detained in 476 jails nationwide as of September 2019. 

The new coronavirus has so far infected 3,246 people in the Philippines—152 of whom have died. — Gaea Katreena Cabico

As It Happens
LATEST UPDATE: September 26, 2020 - 4:13pm

Follow this page for updates on a mysterious pneumonia outbreak that has struck dozens of people in China.

September 26, 2020 - 4:13pm


The Philippines surpasses the 300,000-mark, with 2,747 new COVID-19 infections registered on Saturday.

88 individuals died and 787 recovered from the deadly virus.

September 25, 2020 - 4:10pm

The Department of Health reports 2,630 new cases of the coronavirus disease, bringing the national tally to 299.361.

69 have succumbed to the deadly virus while 494 have recovered. 

September 25, 2020 - 7:14am

The novel coronavirus has killed at least 978,448 people since the outbreak emerged in China last December, according to a tally from official sources compiled by AFP at 1100 GMT on Thursday.

At least 31,975,020 cases of coronavirus have been registered. Of these, at least 21,891,500 are now considered recovered.

The tallies, using data collected by AFP from national authorities and information from the World Health Organization (WHO), probably reflect only a fraction of the actual number of infections. — AFP

September 24, 2020 - 5:47pm

Israel toughens its coronavirus measures as a second nationwide lockdown now nearing its second week failed to bring down the world's highest infection rate.

The new rules will close the vast majority of workplaces, shutter markets and further limit prayers and demonstrations. 

"Over the past two days, we've heard from experts that if we don't take immediate and harsh measures, we'll reach an abyss," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu says. — AFP 

September 24, 2020 - 4:13pm

The Department of Health on Thursday reports 2,180 additional COVID-19 cases in the Philippines, raising the national caseload to 296,755.

The DOH also confirms 580 new recoveries, pushing the total reported recoveries to 231,928. The country's death toll now stands at 5,127 with 36 newly-reported deaths.

Total active case (net of COVID-19 deaths and recoveries) in the country is now at 59,700.

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