Whenever there is dearth on news to banner, media traditionally would flock in prisons and jails.  The National Penitentiary is always at their cross hair.  It is here where news, sensational ones, is to be grabbed.  Even a small incident can be blown out of proportion and media followers would surely get their comeuppance.  Every corner, every criminal profile is a sure fire formula not wanting for an audience.  Writing something about prison is always a best seller.


A few days ago, 13 detainees—all undergoing trial for heinous crime, bolted Sagoy Jail in Ilo-ilo. They overwhelmed the custodial personnel.    Thereafter, two prison guards in the National Penitentiary were hacked by a wayward inmate.  These are but a few recent cases where prison personnel have to confront the hazards of their profession.  They should be alert at all times, never to bring down their guard so to speak and of course, armed with the necessary security gadgets to protect their exposed bodies from sudden, treacherous attack.  Here they must buy a vest, a tazer (stun gun) and a tear gas canister, to name a few.  I say buy because there is no budget for these items.  The vest alone could cost almost P10K.  To be protected therefore from instant violence means a guard must fork out something like 30K for his personal welfare.


Every error in correctional administration is oftentimes blamed on its custodial personnel.  While administrators would fail to get the usual logistical support from government because there is little fund as appropriation, the lowly guards must have to contend with what they have.  But prisoners are growing more sophisticated due to their gang support and “education.”  From this equation, the prison personnel are already at a disadvantage.  While gangs have the muscle and resources to sow fear and bribe their way, the prison guards, on the other hand, have to scrimp to enforce institutional control.  At the end of the day, it is the gangs dictating the tempo and in some penal establishments, prison administration merely serves as on-looker on how correctional facilities are governed.


Gangs have a tendency to buy officers to sustain their operations.  Officers who are at the forefront have choices to make.  Accepting grease money means a smooth performance, no untoward molestation, less stressful and a hassle free exposure in the prison camp.  But of course, this is unacceptable and defies the principle of integrity in public service.  On the other side of the coin, ignoring or declining the offer would mean that gangs are left to contract a hired hit man or a professional complainant to scandalize the officer in media using the money previously dangled.  In which case, the officer faced and mired in controversy, will have no choice but seek refuge elsewhere.  Either he must resign out of embarrassment or blame himself until depression maims him.  These are but a few of the hazards and challenges of his profession.


Working in prison is a demanding exercise.  Prison means control.  Prison workers must control and provide an air of discipline in a highly totalitarian regime of the prison community.  They must read the behavior of the inmates and the community as a whole.  Like weathermen, officers must know that there is a lull before a storm.  An unusual silent prison environment means a high probability that violence is to erupt.  We speak here of a situation where the prison community is not filled to the brim.  A congested facility however is a perfect mixture of trouble.  Only a single fuse, like a spat, could trigger carnage.  Only a few could survive prison service and usually, these are the people who can think ahead and anticipate the collective requirements of the incarcerated humanity.  The demand is on one’s mind indeed.




About vjtesoro

A perpetual student of Corrections

Posted on April 20, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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