INTERNATIONAL COMMITEE OF THE RED CROSS (ICRC): A BEACON IN PRISON VOLUNTEERISM
“Volunteers don’t just do the work ~ they make it work.”
An officer once complained that there is a group of foreigners dipping their noses in the business of prison administration. My response is: “Be glad. We have volunteers in our midst. Let them check everything that we do. Let them review everything that we have done. Let them check every nook for faults. Let them offer their time to evaluate our jobs. And at best, let us listen to them about their impressions and assessment on how best we could serve our universe.”
I added: “ You know how it would cost our institution if we will contract a group to perform this deed? A fortune! And here is one group dedicated to do it for us freely not only with genuine concern but purely out of love.”
I have been in the prison service for as long as I can remember (35 years to be exact) and for as long as I was tasked to handle a prison establishment, the findings of ICRC have been my guiding reference. It has been said that one cannot appreciate the forest if one is inside it. One must be at the far side to see the forested side. One needs somebody who is objective and neutral, without any self-interest or self-serving agenda to determine what specific consideration needs to be addressed. That is the value and and worth of an ICRC report.
Sometime ago, I was approached by a group of graduate students requesting permission to conduct a research on prison administration. But before I consented, there was a catch. I must have to sustain the group in terms of transportation assistance and subsistence. I sadly turned it down, we have no wherewithal to maintain a private endeavor . Then a group of professionals submitted a formal proposal to conduct an institutional audit so that my administration will be able to determine which area in prison management needs reinforcement, needs review, needs examination. The cost of the proposal however was very prohibitive. I had a choice: To disregard these groups and suffer ineptitutde because it is expensive and may not sit well with government fund economy OR accept it, pay however steep, and be upgraded. For a time I was in a quandary until a group of caucasians entered the picture.
At first, their presence was suspect. They were telling us, prison administrators, after seeing a group of prisoners lying on the floor sleeping one lazy and humid afternoon that we were cold in the treatment of prisoners. We had a good laugh. Filipinos, in their respective household in the free community, would prefer to take a nap on the floor every afternoon to pass time and recharge. Same is true with Filipino prisoners. The foreigners quickly took note and joined us in amusement. They came to assist prison administrators in determining which part of the prison service may require their support. And their reports and findings were so meticulous that if at all I would have the same coming from professional auditors or scholars, the latter’s product would surely suffer in comparison. Their (ICRC) reports were cerebral and they would even take time to discuss their findings. Faced with economy, they would even propose to handle a project.
With volunteers coming from this rabid and committed professionals, public service is blest with accomplishments. Furthermore, society becomes livable and the world becomes a paradise for commitment and dedication.