BUREAU OF PRISONS: THE WAY WE WERE

bureau of prisons

Under Prison Law of 1917, Superintendents of penal colonies have the rank of a Court of First Instance judge.  Now, there is no more CFI Judge in the judicial nomenclature of its court officers but they are referred to as Regional Trial Court Judges.  Seldom a prison superintendent would practice judicial control and power not because it has been lost but they do not know what it is all about.  Like judges and elected officials, they can officiate in matrimony within their jurisdiction and more.

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The Bureau of Prisons was established in 1905 and was originally situated in Old Bilibid Viejo in Ascaraga (now Recto Avenue), Manila.  Said office became known for quite sometime as the “Manila Office.”  In 1935, during the Quezon administration, an estate in Muntinlupa was bought by the national government and became the site of the National Penitentiary.  Manila office was a five-hectare prison facility and could no longer accommodate the growing number of inmates.  Public works started in 1940 until it was completed in 1944.  World War II broke out and the newly built penitentiary literally became a garrison.  After the Liberation, the New Bilibid Prison was restored back and realigned from the Department of Instructions to the Department of Justice.

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In operation at that time was Prison Law of 1917.   In said law, the Bureau of Prisons has direct administrative control and supervision over all jails, local and provincial.  That explains the fact that even at present, only the Director of the Bureau of Prisons (Corrections) is the only one authorized to grant Good Conduct Time Allowance on serving sentence prisoners. (Note:  Last Saturday, June 1, 2013, President Aquino signed a new law—RA 10592— amending the Revised Penal Code allowing the grant of Good Conduct Time Allowance for jail inmates.) With the passage of the Local Government Code comes the realignment of agencies under its wings.  A local office under the Integrated National Police founded in 1976, the office of Jail Management and Penology evolved into the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in 1987.  The BJMP from then on is in charge of all Municipal, City and District Jails in the country.  (To date, however, they have not only fulfilled 100% management of these jails).  The provincial jails retained its situation under the local government unit through the office of the Governor, who according to the Local Government Code is also the Provincial Jail Warden.

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The Martial Law years witnessed token changes in the correctional administration.  Leyte Regional Prison was founded through a Presidential Decree in 1973.  Thereafter, another decree was issued rendering all penal colonies into regular prisons and penal farms.  During said period, while a new prison (LRP) was established, old prison facilities in Manila, Fort Bonifacio and another at Bontoc, Mountain province were decommissioned.  A few years after the Marcos administration, the Department of Justice handed down an Order pursuing earlier regional configuration to apply on the jurisdiction of penal establishment according to regional setting.  Hence, prisons and penal farms all over the country are authorized to receive convicted prisoners from the region convicted in a decentralized manner.

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During the 1987 deliberation of the Administrative Code, the constitutional convention sought the reaction of the prison leadership on the manner of changing the name of the Bureau of Prisons to Bureau of Corrections.  The convention was set to address the fragmented correctional services and aimed further to integrate correctional layers under one agency.  The prison leadership then, a political appointee and an oriented retired military brass, argued that he could not even tame the seven prisons and penal farms under his direct supervision why include more agencies and concerns.  The convention closed the discussion and simply considered the change of nomenclature of the agency as the only development without any further changes.

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In 1987, the Local Government Code was passed and consequently, the supervisory line of the Bureau of Corrections (formerly Prisons) was effectively clipped.  While it has been a technical practice to refer the status of local jail prisoners to the BuCor before, especially on matters on the grant of GCTA and related release procedures, to date, the manner has been loosely arranged.  Confusion reigns as to the methods in the treatment of prisoners.  During the same period, a correctional intervention was established with the issuance of a law organizing the Probation and Parole Administration directly under the supervision of the Department of Justice in league with Bucor.

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While it can be said that Bucor is the principal agency tasked to promote a standard on the treatment of prisoners according to the tenets of United Nations, this could not be pursued anymore since other corrective agencies have formulated their own rules and guidelines in the treatment of their respective universe.  As a consequence, correctional administration in the country has been fragmented at a time when all correctional system in the Asian and global region have reached a unifying position.

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The passage of RA 10575, otherwise known as the Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013, intends to rectify this situation…hopefully.

 

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About vjtesoro

A perpetual student of Corrections

Posted on June 3, 2013, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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