COVID-19 cases in prisons jump to 194; 161 are inmates

Kristine Joy Patag - Philstar.com
COVID-19 cases in prisons jump to 194; 161 are inmates
This photo taken May 25 shows elderly inmates of the New Bilibid Prison who will undergo rapid test for COVID-19.
Bureau of Corrections / Facebook page released

MANILA, Philippines — The number of COVID-19 infections at the Bureau of Corrections rose to 194, and 161 of these are convicts in the bureau’s overcrowded facilities, the Department of Justice reported on Wednesday.

Citing data from the bureau, Justice Undersceretary Markk Perete said that as of May 25, a total of 161 Persons Deprived of Liberty have been confirmed infected with COVID-19.

Of these, 82 are from the New Bilibid Prison, while 79 are from the Correctional Institution for Women.

Six PDLs have since died, while eight have so far recovered. This means that there are currently 147 active COVID-19 cases in BuCor. There are also 99 suspect and 36 probable COVID-19 cases in Bilibid and CIW.

Data from January 2020 showed that the NBP has occupancy rate of 453% and congestion rate of 353% while the CIW has occupancy rate of 340% and congestion rate of 240%.

Meanwhile, 33 personnel of the Corrections bureau have also been infected with the coronavirus. Twenty-six of them are from Bilibid, while five are from the women’s jail in Mandaluyong City.

Three BuCor staff members have recovered from the disease.

Perete also said that another batch of 1,500 rapid test kits for the use of PDLs is set to be delivered to BuCor this week. "More are expected in the coming weeks," he added. 

RELATED: Group calls for transparency in jail reports as coronavirus hits Philippine prisons

BJMP COVID-19 cases

Penal and detention facilities across the country are known to be overcrowded, where social distancing and proper hygiene—practices meant to deter spread of the novel coronavirus—are practically impossible for inmates.

Earlier this week, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology reported 517 confirmed COVID-19 cases in ten of its facilities, according to President Rodrigo Duterte’s report to Congress.

BJMP operates jails while BuCor manages prisons.

BJMP also said it identified 703 suspected and 86 probable cases in their facilities.

READ: More than 500 inmates in BJMP facilities test positive for COVID-19

BJMP, according to its 2015 operations manual, holds jurisdiction over persons detained awaiting or undergoing investigation or trial and/or transfer to the national penitentiary and/or violent mentally ill person who endangers him/herself.

PDL releases

The justice department and the Supreme Court have crafted guidelines to help decongest prisons and penal facilities in response to the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus in the country.

Duterte’s latest report to Congress noted that as of May 15, there have been 144 PDLs granted parole while there are 653 pending applications for parole/executive clemency following the implementation of DOJ’s Interim Rules.

The guidelines relaxed documentary requirements for parole applications and lowered the minimum age for executive clemency to 65 years old from 70.

The president also said that “53 elderly PDLs have been released from detention by virtue of a court order, 31 of whom are non-recidivists, while 21 have pre-existing medical conditions” as of May 12.

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