PRISON AWARENESS SUNDAY
Every last week of October since 1998, the Philippine correctional system celebrates Prison Awareness Week, like Fire Prevention Week or anything where social concern is focused or is persuaded to focus on a particular period.
Over at the National Penitentiary, at New Bilibid Prison, the face of corrective service in the country, where the so called basest, worst, most dreaded offenders are confined, the Prison Awareness Week is celebrated as National Correctional Consciousness Week, where it features the creative side of imprisonment. Here during the period, all penal establishments are all in display mode. Handicrafts of varying expressions are shown to the public.
The prison community is where one could find all offenders who were sensibly removed from free society, to be segregated from their community of orientation, physically deprived of family life, forced to live in a highly communal, almost dictatorial and regimented, grossly formulated routine of daily life for a specified judicially prescribed period.
Prison, it can be said, is an artificial community where everything is enforced externally and internally rendering life in a highly pressured and tensed situation almost unbearable to sustain. Deception is always the order of the day.
If there is anything genuine in every interpersonal contact, it is always centered on the individual interest of offenders. There is nothing social, there is nothing gregarious, there is nothing worth a sacrifice. Everyone is disadvantaged and any privilege offered is seen as a heavenly intervention. Prison is hell and it is never appreciated as home even by the vilest among the denizens.
Here one can find the radical among them de-radicalized by monotony and humdrum. Here one can find the sexually deranged almost castrated by fear. Here one can find the behaviorally maladjusted straightened out by peer group pressure. Anything lived previously as excessive, in prison becomes detoxified by excessive familiarization.
Outsiders never bring rehabilitation, that twin mandate of corrective safekeeping, into the prison community. It is an effect, which is internally formulated by latent frustrations and lamentation. It is brought about by contemplation. It is a personal offering almost a spiritual exercise by those who wish to be redeemed. It is winning over the past that bedeviled his life. It is an advent for change, a reinvention of the self, a birth of another person, a stronger, a firmer, a better one.
This is, at the core, what is celebrated every week of the year and as it culminates on the last day of every last week of October, on every Prison Awareness Sunday.