My children were distraught when they heard that I was in the bad light in media. One day, they decided to see me, broke their silence and asked me a series of questions. Here are my responses to them.
How come some inmates enjoy amenities like a good space in a crowded prison environment?
Some prison facilities are designed as dormitories, others by cell. A dormitory is good for 500 inmates. A single cell is ideal for 25 inmates. A dormitory however houses almost 1,000 inmates at a given time, while a regular cell is packed up to 75. Since government has no capital outlay to expand its facilities, it merely supervises closely the lumped humanity so that violence would not erupt.
The dormitory or cell leader, usually one with resources or one with command over resources, would approach the prison administrator for an audience informing of the congestion obtaining in his area. If there are no institutional funds for improvement, he would propose that he can do something about it (suggesting that a mezzanine be constructed so that excess people on the ground will have another space to occupy vertically) provided that administration allows it.
Once allowed and a defined space provided, usually the affected mass of inmates out of gratitude would allow their proponent or leader to have his own respective and personal area of his own. And the benefited inmates would shower their leader with services (oftentimes fitting that of a “king”) and small resources they can obtain as offering to his magnanimity. They would even shield their leader from whatever threats or complaints lodged against him. They would pamper him and treat him even as VIP.
How come big contraptions like Jacuzzi bathtub can enter the prison camp without anyone noticing it?
There are times when prison administration would be able to secure appropriation to renovate a facility in the prison camp. Once pursued, a score of big delivery trucks carrying several cubic meter loads of sand and aggregates would enter officially the facility. Enterprising inmates would, more often than not, transact with the driver, at times dangling offers so that the latter can place anything under the sand to be introduced in the camp. It could be a Jacuzzi bathtub, big foam, explosives, waterbed frame, liquor, the whole shebang, anything at all for a good price. Since inmates were the ones in charge of labor, in unloading the contents of the truck, the whole charade of smuggling is kept under wraps.
The prison community is one village with its own language and sub-culture. It operates similarly with that of mafia. Everything is done with caution and in secrecy. It has its own respective codes. Those who transgress the confidentiality of their plans are immediately penalized brutally if not exterminated extremely.
How about the cache of firearms recently discovered found in contraptions within the prison cells and dormitories?
Normally, no prison personnel would ever allow themselves to smuggle firearms or anything deadly within the area of their responsibilities. They know that it would be used against them when push becomes shoving. The worse scenario where prison personnel would be found in cahoots with prisoners is when they are recruited as gang members. They become sympathetic with the personal requirements of his fraternity brothers but that is the most that he could do given all kinds of persuasion.
It is common knowledge that only those armed personnel detailed in prison with direct relationship with prison officials are oftentimes left to pass through the prison gates without being frisked. They were part of the official contingent and considered a reinforcing force reckoned after all.
Enterprising prisoners however are quick to notice their movements and they would be given respect until a rapport is established. Once there is familiarity, transactions are conducted. An inmate negotiator is assigned to transact. At first, the inmate would compliment the firearm tucked on the waistband of the detailed officer and out rightly would guess the price. A calibre 45 would cost Php 50K but in prison, it could be bought for Php 150K.
Exposed in this kind of tempting condition, the lowly paid detailed contingent succumbs until he becomes a contraband mule.
Who are those classified as Maximum Security Inmates and what is the measurement of their relationship with prison officers?
Prisoners with a maximum sentence of more than twenty years up to Life Imprisonment or more are classified as Maximum Security Status. They are different breed of offenders. Most of them are pure predators. They decide on the spot, rightly or wrongly.
In the free community, they simply get what they want, whether it is against the law or not. They, at times, disregard law and would rather come up with their own version of the law. Essentially, they are decision-makers in a field where dereliction, safety and procrastination serve as background. They have evolved from a highly destructive and unhealthy environment.
Lump them together in an overcrowded manner, they merely survive in a way they know best—they negotiate better. They are masters of deception.
They are never bothered by their conscience, if at all it is a component in their attributes. Everything around them is guided only by respect. For them respect is an honourable quality and they would be swung by this social world view. Respect as projected by gangs virtually de-radicalizes any ideologically brainwashed offender in the prison community. In no time, any one, confirmed terrorist or otherwise, become a willing soldier in the highly organized gang network in the prison camp.
Nobody messes around with gangs. They have the resources, the connections and influence. They can flex their muscles even if they are incarcerated. The entire country actually is subdivided according to regional or geographical gang territory. And what makes gangs almost untouchable and impenetrable is the fact that from their ranks come law enforcement assets.
Prison administration is there only to secure these people so that they will not escape and create trouble; and if possible encourage them to change their persuasion from law breakers to law abiding denizens through reasonable programs. It is not prison administration that can change their heart, it is how prison is managed and contained that makes it possible. Internal change in behaviour is not a strong point of authority that is seen as a challenge to their freedom. People change accordingly at their own pace.
How come there is a lot of money in the prison camp?
The maximum security facility of the National Penitentiary has a total population of 14K. Let us grant that 4K of them is visitor less. Hence, at a given visiting time, 10K of them has visitors. Let us also grant that for each visitor a gang would require a 5 peso per head mark as contribution of a visitor (the mark is not actually what is obtaining since it depends on gang requirements, it could be more, depending on the type of visitor, but assuming a flat rate of 5 pesos). Let us assume that there are two visitors per inmate, which should mean 10 pesos. Let us multiply 10 pesos for 10k inmates. It could easily mean P100k. That is a conservative estimate on the daily influx of money. There are donations, contributions, handicraft proceeds and give aways to be factored and quantified yet. But let us just stick to P100k. There are 22 visiting days in a month multiplied with the average per head visitor donation amounting to P100k daily, that translates into a P2.2Million monthly revenue.
It is not surprising therefore why gangs can easily retain services of good law firms to sustain and protect their rights against officers whose policies are against them. It is not surprising also why organized groups in prison can retain services of some media outfits and even some enterprising advocates to scandalize anyone they are at logger heads with. For them, the cheaper is hiring riding in tandem to harass and punish their detractors. Some forces are in their pocket already and woe against those who are anathema to the organized groups.
What is the effect of jail or prison congestion?
It leads to the deterioration of the incarcerated. The inmate or detainee invariably gets infected with a common ailment in an instant within the deadly radius of the confinement area. It leads towards barbarism and cruelty. It breeds inequality in general and excesses for a few.
In other words, congestion dehumanizes everyone. And this is the milieu a correctional officer carves out his career.