CHR calls for improved healthcare in jails after suspected TB cases

CHR calls for improved healthcare in jails after suspected TB cases
Prison inmates sit inside a compound chapel as police conduct a search operation in the cells for contraband and illegal drugs at the Manila City Jail in Manila on October 21, 2022.
AFP / Jam Sta. Rosa

MANILA, Philippines — The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Thursday stressed that persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) deserve the same level of care and treatment as the general population following reported cases of tuberculosis at a jail. 

In a statement, the CHR said the high number of suspected tuberculosis cases among PDLs at Pasay City Jail highlighted the urgency of addressing the outbreak effectively and immediately. 

Cramped quarters, poor hygiene, and inadequate sanitation make prisons and jails hotspots for disease transmission. 

Citing a report, the commission said over 400 PDLs at Pasay City Jail exhibited symptoms suggestive of tuberculosis. They were isolated for confirmatory testing. 

Rule 1 of the Nelson Mandela Rules, also known as the United Nations Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, states that “all prisoners shall be treated with respect due to their inherent dignity and value as human beings.”

It also emphasizes the need to ensure the safety and security of prisoners, staff, service providers and visitors. 

“To prevent similar health problems in jails, the commission hopes that the Bureau of Correction (BuCor) will implement routine and comprehensive medical screenings for all PDLs upon entry and periodically during their incarceration to detect TB and other infectious diseases early,” the CHR said. 

It added that authorities should also ensure access to accurate and rapid diagnostic tools to confirm infectious diseases promptly. 

The Philippines has the world’s eleventh-largest prison population, according to the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC). The number of people detained in the corrections system surged by nearly 75% between 2015 and 2021, ballooning from 94,691 to 165,528.

The CHR also called for a law establishing a National Preventive Mechanism (NPM), which will play an important role in preventing torture and ensuring compliance with domestic and international standards for PDLs, jails, and detention centers. 

“We believe that genuine reparation and rehabilitation can only be attained by upholding justice, fairness, and the inherent human dignity of PDLs,” it said. 

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