Overcrowded PH jails don't meet UN standards, admits BJMP official


Posted at Jul 01 2018 02:08 PM | Updated as of Jul 01 2018 03:00 PM

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MANILA - Philippine jails, many of which house more than 5 times their capacity, do not meet United Nations standards, an official of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) said on Sunday. 

Each jail inmate should be given at least 4.7 square meters of space, according to the UN, said BJMP Director for Operations J/Supt. Noel Pimentel Montalvo. 

Under this standard, only 21,342 inmates could be accommodated in Philippine jails, which have a total floor space of 100,315 sqm, he said. 

Inmates rest in their sleeping quarters inside the Quezon City jail at night in Manila in this picture taken on July 18, 2016. Noel Celis, AFP

But inmate population is already at 144,871 which means that Philippine jails have breached their capacity by 582 percent, said Montalvo. 

"Labis-labis po ang congestion sa ating mga facility nationwide," Montalvo said in an interview with DZMM Teleradyo. 

(The congestion in our facilities nationwide is grave.) 

Overcrowding strains BJMP's ability to keep its mandate for the humane safekeeping of inmates or "persons deprived of liberties," the official admitted. 

"Talaga pong mahihirapan ang kahit anong institusyon na mapaganda ang pamamahala at mabigyan ng nararapat yung ating mga kapatid na nakapiit kung ang ating facility ay medyo salat sa gamit at salat sa espasyo," he said. 

(Any institution will find it hard to properly manage and give what is due our detained brothers and sisters without the needed facilities and space.)

Montalvo said the BJMP is appealing to local government units that manage provincial and city jails to build new facilities to house detainees, who are also their constituents. 

An earlier report said congestion in jails worsened amid President Rodrigo Duterte's intensified campaign against crime, particularly illegal drugs. 

Duterte in 2017 expressed satisfaction with the condition of jails run by BJMP despite widespread congestion. 

He said budget constraints then bar the improvement of jails. He instead promised inmates that he would place a television in each cell to improve their living conditions. 

The BJMP is in charge of all city, district and municipal jails. It handles detainees "accused before a court who are temporarily confined in such jails while undergoing investigation, waiting final judgement and those who are serving sentence promulgated by the court 3 years and below."