YearEnder: Jail congestion rate up by 595% amid drug war

Emmanuel Tupas - The Philippine Star

MANILA, Philippines — The government’s war on drugs caused the country’s cramped jails to be congested by as much as 595 percent last year, according to the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Before President Duterte assumed office in June 2016, the BJMP said around 110,000 inmates were held in different detention facilities across the country. The inmate population surged amid the arrest of drug suspects.

Ideally, the BJMP should have only 21,064 inmates in its 475 detention facilities across the country.

But at the end of 2017,  the BJMP had 149,003 inmates.

The three facilities with the most number of inmates are the Manila city jail with 5,798 followed by the Cebu jail with 4,995 and Davao City jail with 3,348.

Based on records, 106,434 inmates are being held on drug charges. The rest were charged with offenses such as murder, robbery and physical injuries.

The BJMP is undermanned as it only has 12,200 officers and personnel, with 7,000 doing custodial tasks.

Senior Inspector Xavier Solda, spokesman for the BJMP, said the administration’s campaign against illegal drugs should not be blamed for the jail congestion.

Solda said the slow pace of the judicial process, with court trials dragging on for several years, was the main reason for jail congestion.

A total of 147,652 inmates are languishing in jails while on trial, based on records of the BJMP, he said.

Solda said an average of 10 offenders are brought to jails daily while only two are released from detention.

“The problem is that more people are coming in than those who are going out of jails,” Solda said in an interview.

BJMP officials are hoping that the Supreme Court will institute measures to speed up the judicial process so cases  can be resolved quickly.

For 2018, the BJMP is eyeing the construction of more detention facilities to ease jail congestion. 

On Nov. 5, a groundbreaking ceremony was held in Mandaluyong City for the construction of a five-story jail building expected to be completed by 2019.

At least 991 detainees are housed in the city jail, which has a capacity of only 108 people, or a congestion rate of 817.59 percent.

On Dec. 22, another ceremony was held for the construction of a new district jail in Orani, Bataan to ease overcrowding in the facility, which has 2,050 inmates or a congestion rate of 402 percent.

“We are positive that we will have new jails by next year,” Solda said.

The government has earmarked P1.5 billion of the BJMP budget for the construction of more jails.

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