EDITORIAL - Gross mismanagement hounds penal system

The Freeman

If what was uncovered in the recent raids at Cebu's main jail facilities - the Cebu City jail and the Cebu provincial jail - can be summed up into a single phrase, that word would have to be gross mismanagement.Gross mismanagement lay at the very core of every illegal and anomalous activity discovered during the surprise operations.

But what makes gross mismanagement particularly damning in both instances is that lack of management skills on the part of those who ran and managed the two facilities had nothing to do with the mess. Rather, the gross mismanagement of everything that moved in the two jails reeked of willful and deliberate complicity, of clear and direct knowledge and participation.

There was a purpose in the way the two jails were run, but that purpose was never in accordance with why jails are being built in the first place. In other words, contrary to what a jail is supposed to be, every effort was made to make the Cebu City jail and the Cebu provincial jail the exact opposite. And what makes the whole thing more surprising than the discovery was the fact that nobody seemed to know until the shit hit the fan.

Setting aside all the crime-related atrocities that were uncovered on account of the twin raids, the one thing that leapt out was the severity of congestion in the jails. Everybody, of course, knew of the congestion. All jails and prisons in the Philippines are essentially congested. But until the raids happened and pictures started getting published, no one, not even the Devil himself, expected it to be that congested.

In one photo, detainees were literally sleeping on top of one another in a quadrangle, forced to sleep in the open because of the heat inside their cells. To illustrate for those who did not see the photo - if one inmate accidentally touched a live wire, every poor mother's son in that quadrangle of thousands would die because all of them were physically touching one another.

Again, setting aside all the crime-related atrocities uncovered in the raids, do you mean to say that nobody knew about the congestion? No, not the kind of congestion people think they know about Philippine jails. By congestion is meant the kind that characterizes and sets apart the two Cebu jails from the others, the congestion where people literally sleep on top of one another. Incredible?Google the photos.

And to think one of these facilities has become internationally famous for its so-called dancing inmates. Clearly the global attention was misdirected - at things that entertain and amaze and make people forget the other side of life that emerges after dark. Some culpable officials realize only now that more and bigger jails are needed. That is right - only now. Whenever they get around to building new facilities, maybe they should be the first occupants.

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