EDITORIAL - Jail congestion not an infrastructure problem

The Freeman

Recognizing that jail congestion all over the country has become a national emergency, the Department of Interior and Local Government said it is now pushing for the construction of more and bigger jails. Actually, jail congestion all over the country became a national emergency as early as 30 years ago but everybody with the ability to do something about it was either looking away or was looking at it but did not see it.

But now you do not even have to look at it. It tugs at your pants. Like a child mendicant at some busy streetcorner, its tugging forces you to act. Either you recognize its presence, or you walk away, ignoring it still. Apparently, the DILG has decided the problem has become too humongous to be ignored. Hence the resolve to build more and bigger jails.

Unfortunately, that still does not solve the problem. At the rate crimes are being committed and people getting arrested, any number of bigger jails in more places will likely be swamped with detainees in just five to 10 years from the start of their operations. Like the perpetual imbalance between salaries and the cost of things, there is no leveling out between detainees and jails unless something happens to a lot of related things.

There is, for instance, the matter of pace in the resolution of court cases. For as long as the judicial process proceeds at its current pace, those awaiting resolution of their cases will have to remain detained in congested jails. There is also the huge disproportion between those who eventually go scot free and those destined to remain locked up.

Then there is the apparent breakdown of morals in society that, in turn, has led to the lowering of the levels of hesitancy to commit crimes. It is now quicker to commit crimes than, say, 50 years ago. A non-fatal stabbing was big news in the 1960s. Today, the rape of a five-year-old girl does not even merit landing on the front page.

The breakdown of morals in society has a direct link to the congestion in jails. With more people finding less compunction to commit any crime, it follows that more people will be landing in jail than if people clearly saw the wrong in committing one. In such a situation, jail congestion will always become an inevitability no matter how big and how many jails will be constructed in the country.

What this tells us is that building more and bigger jails is not the real solution to the problem of jail congestion. The real solution is the reintroduction of society back to its ability to distinguish right from wrong.

Whether that can still be done or done quickly enough will naturally provoke long discussions. But is is a thought worth pursuing, not only because it is a valid thought but that such a thought is the only remaining option.

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