ON HANDLING HIGH PROFILE PRISONERS
I wrote a book about celebrity prisoners but at a time when I was about to publish it, a new high profile convict was admitted in prisons. And so I had to take note and include the fellow. As a consequence, my publication must have to take a back seat. But before I could draft another chapter and finish the literary project to be taken to my lay out artist, another group would again be received in the penitentiary.
With the indictment of senators and a score of congressmen, I think what I will write is no longer a book about celebrity prisoners but an encyclopaedia of blue collar crimes instead!
Before the start of legal procedures on these personalities, there was the Ampatuans whose case is still heard before the courts of law. And before them, there was former governor Antonio Leviste, Major General Carlos Garcia, the dreaded robbery gang leader Ampang Colanco, Scintilla Juris fratmen of the Venturina case, and further on, there was Hubert Webb, Cochise-Beebom case,Calauan Mayor Antonio Sanchez, Quirino Governor Orlando Dulay, former Congressmen Junior de Guzman and Romeo Jalosjos, actors Robin and his brother Rommel Padilla (father of heartthrob Daniel Padilla), General Reynaldo Berroya, Aquino-Galman convicts, businessman Rolito Go, Abadilla 5 , international terrorist Dwikarma, Abu Sayaf group and a number of personalities dubbed by media and law enforcers as Kidnap for Ransom masterminds, drug and gambling lords. These are but an array of high risk and high profile inmates hobnobbing inside the national penitentiary.
All of them are jam packed along with ordinary felons, common offenders and usual suspects. All of them elbow to elbow in a facility good for 7,000 but already congested over at 156%. How they would try to adjust in a 9 hectare, four walled environment is an anthropological, sociological and psychological treasure trove of insights and revelations. For sure, there would be attempts to reduce the tension by introducing items for their use and survival. Attempts to seek permission for the entry of air cooler would be made. While government’s role is to secure and maintain the welfare of inmates, making life bearable in prison is almost tantamount to the provision of special privileges already. The sight of prisoners languishing and grimacing in pain is better appreciated than inmates exuding contemplative smiles. Public perception of how prisons are governed is still conservative and to a large extent, still retributive.
Ironically, a prison facility is by law expected to rehabilitate prisoners. An enforced communal life in a crowded and crammed area does not sit well with any rehabilitation program. Any learning course to encourage penance in a threatening and hazardous environment does not inspire success. It would only increase the hostility of a person undergoing such a regime. It is not surprising therefore that when a small time snatcher once released would be transformed into a monster with capabilities of robbing and killing its victim. The birth of heinous crimes could have been bred in the confines of a congested facility. It could have been unwittingly taught through sheer magnitude of influence brought about by an unconcerned and brutal environment. Indeed, brutality, like a stream of water, finds its own level of brutality.
How does prison administration handle a high profile inmate without losing grip? High profile inmates have been through various levels of struggle that rehabilitation for them is just a whim. They are skilful enough to the point that there is no need for them to learn any other craft. They would rather manage than be managed. They even have to goods to throw at any officer who dare cross their institutional path. And there are cases where common and lowly officers were thrown out, suspended and even terminated because their lawyers, highly paid ones, would take up the cause for their harassed client to the detriment of the prison organization.
Hence, these types of inmates are deferred not because they have the resources to bribe officers but they have the proper wherewithal to use against anyone contradicting what they want. And what they want is not what they wished for in the first place but what their fellow inmates wanted them to pursue. In a threatening environment, these high profile inmates are but a cog in the furnace of common requirements. Should they fail to pursue something from prison administration, it is not their face that they lose but their peace of mind. If out of empathy prison officers kowtow with what has been pleaded, there is always the malice of having been bribed and corrupted that is usually alleged. Either way, public perception is harsh.
In other countries, there are segregation areas where high profile and high risk prisoners are confined. In this side of the planet, it is like the house of Pinoy Big Brother, All In!