It has been said that once a person is sentenced to serve time, the penalty for incarceration is in itself the punishment already. Once confined in a penal facility (or in the case of a community-based corrective approach, supervised as probationer or parolee), the person is no longer subject to retribution. Otherwise, the penalty is multiplied two-fold, that is, segregated from family and community of orientation and then subjected to humiliating exploitation while imprisoned. That is not what the law intends in the first place. There is only one penalty for an offense. And that is to be under the custody of law for a period of time.
There are prison facilities that require prisoners to earn their upkeep. The maintenance cost for their subsistence is deserved in the course of their defined work or assignment while serving time. Other prison settings are organized to conduct a highly productive environment where workshops are designed virtually like factories. In other countries, prisons are closed environments where security is a principal tenet and inmate movements measured to a certain degree. Prisoners in closed prison setting are involved in institutional production activities confined in workshops and factories within the walls.
Various countries have their respective expression of handling and treating their prisoners. In Mexico, prisoners are compelled to learn a skill otherwise they will never be recommended for any form of executive clemency. In said country, they have a correctional policy called “No Skill-No Release” program.
In Australia, prisoners are compelled to be craftsmen. All furniture, chairs and tables including cabinets and office dividers used by government are built in prisons. In Canada, prison inmates are not only tasked for carpentry works but also contracted for punching out license plates of motor vehicles.
In Hong Kong, prison facilities are virtually workshops where public works contract the fabrication of street signs and road marks. In Japan, prisoners are conscripted to work on factories inside prison tasked on manpower intensive computer spare parts engineering and manufacturing. There are facilities also which maintain breweries, manned and maintained by prisoners.
In China, prisoners are marched as a group in penal farms on horticultural patches where they cultivate and maintain vast areas for gardening and related agro production program. Furthermore, prisoners under institutional care and confinement are also tapped in lucrative Internet gaming work.
In England, prisoners are assigned on correctional studios and trained for high-quality craftwork, interior design commissions and heritage pieces for organizations.
In India, inmates build furniture, sew uniforms and make eco-friendly paper and office supplies for the country’s police and courts.
In Brazil, the concentration is on education more than production. Accordingly, prison administration engage idle prisoners by shaving time of their sentences in return for reading books. Thus, a prisoner can get four days off for each book read, confirmed by a written book report, to a maximum of 48 days a year.
In Tijar Jail, the largest prison complex in South Asia, inmates are turned into profitable producer of goods ranging from food products to shoes. Its bakery produces some of the country’s most popular bread, biscuits and muffins. The proceeds of these productive activities are directed to help victims of crime.
In Africa, the waste of prisoners are compacted in a dungeon like facility and its methane content translated into biogas which supply not only the electrical power for the facility but also, the energy requirements of the neighboring towns.
In Israel, prisoners are treated clinically. In this manner, a prisoner goes out as one of a group escorted by a senior prison officer. If he satisfies the terms of such groups and performs well with no lapses, then he will be transferred to an individual rehabilitation track, whereby he will go out to work or study alone and unescorted to cope by himself with the pressures of work or study. Before he receives his release, he will live in a hostel and spend each weekend on home leave with his family.
In Indonesia, they still maintain an island prison much like Alcatraz where the main preoccupation of prisoners is on fishery and on teak and rubber tree plantation. In neighboring Malaysia, prisoners are no longer given rock-breaking work but more on coconut pounding routine. Their facilities are designed where congestion is checked and welfare of prisoners promoted.
In the Philippines, prisoners under limited movement are enrolled in academic sequences, compelled to participate in literary courses and assigned on handicraft or vocational program. Those who are about to be released and are designated in penal colonies are allowed to immerse in farm work and compensated for their productive output. Education (formal and informal) remains as the backbone of institutional rehabilitation program.
- Finally a law that would push the Bureau of Corrections from its base reference of Prison Law of 1917 to the present times (with SB 3335 re An Act Strengthening the Bureau of Corrections and providing Funds Therefor otherwise known as Corrections Act of 2012) through a bill which has been approved for passage and eventually for review and signature of the President.
- The proposed law had three versions at the level of Congressional Committee. As soon as it was forwarded to the Senate, it has been reformulated under the Committee on Justice and the Senate Committee Report no. 487 (under the sponsorship of Senator Chiz Escudero and Senator Franklin Drilon) and it eventually became SB 3335.
- The Bill was discussed and deliberated in August 9, 2011 and eventually was approved on third reading last December 17, 2012. Once signed by the President, it becomes a law in 15 days as stipulated.
- The Bill, which is expected to be signed into a law early next year, has the following features:
- The State recognizes the need to professionalize and restructure Bucor through upgrading its entire management system.
- The law effectively made the Bureau of Corrections a uniformed bureau.
- As a uniformed bureau, the compulsory retirement age is 56 years old.
- The head of the bureau is referred to as Director General with three deputy directors—all of them to be appointed by the President as recommended by the Secretary of Justice. They have a term of office not to exceed 6 years.
- The Bureau shall operate with a directorial structure. (Hence Reception and Diagnostic Center will be renamed as Directorate for Reception and Diagnostics, etc.)
- All Bucor lands accordingly shall proceed to work on the administrative process and have a certificate of title registered under its name.
- The law likewise contemplates the formation of a Philippine Corrections Academy patterned after PNPA and PMA.
- Position title of personnel is changed. From Prison Guard I, it will henceforth be Corrections Officer I. The highest position in the career ladder which is Penal Superintendent IV will be called Corrections Chief Superintendent.
- All positions in the Bureau of Corrections shall be governed by CSC rule on Qualification Standards. Those without eligibility therefore will be given 5 years within which to qualify or would be subject to attrition, that is, separated or retired from the service.
- The law effectively increases one grade higher than the previous base line grade for officers at the top and those at the rear have an increase of five salary grade (from prison guard 1, salary grade 5 to Corrections Officer 1 at salary grade 10.)
Note: Congress approved on third reading almost the same version as what the Senate earlier approved. On the last week of January, 2013, Congress sent to Senate the bill for the Bicameral review. It has been resolved that the Bill will be submitted to the President, who certified the same on its urgency. The BuCor Act of 2013 is hopefully a law about to be born this year. But there is a catch. The appropriation for said law will take effect five years from the date the law has been passed.
Christmas is a season of joy, of exchanging gifts and pleasantries, of greeting one another, of renewing vows of love and friendship. In other words, it is a period when one embraces charity, kindness and compassion. This is the air that pervades in the free community.
In prison, there is no such air. How can a prisoner feel Christmas when he is serving time in a facility he cannot even call home? How can he rejoice the yuletide season when he is encircled by people he never knew from Adam. Try eating while people with hostile background are around you and you will get the point. You probably might feel that you are a tube where on one end something is introduced and in another it exits unceremoniously.
While it is true that during the season, prisoners are inspired to fashion out Christmas décor in various proportions, the holiday aura is definitely missing. Worst, it is at this point when thoughts of prisoners are focused on escaping! The prison community therefore is gripped with tension, enveloped with stress and strained with security restrictions. It is one stretch of a yearly break where prison administration is distressed with the weight of anxiety, hassled by endless stream of worry and anticipating the trauma of prison violence.
Christmas unfortunately, with its sacred significance is lost in the consciousness of prison life. Sometimes it is used as reference for soliciting gifts, at times made as template for indulging prison volunteers on their crusade for repentance but on the whole, it is just a passing period whence prisoner would base the length of their stay in prison.
Christmas in prison? Ask me about it—- once all prisons are empty.
As I was browsing on my facebook account I was amazed at one picture. It is about two dogs, sleeping soundly and wrapped in satin blanket. Naalala ko tuloy yung alaga kong monkey sa Iwahig when I was then its Superintendent.
Ganun din kung matulog, naka-kumot at naka-musketero pa. Marunong na rin kumain gamit ang kubyertos. Minsan nagulat ako kasi nagbabasa na at natiempuhan ko pa na nagsusulat. BINUGBOG KO NGA! Isipin mo gusto pa akong unahan mag enroll sa doctorate course.
Sometimes I cannot help but be tormented with the information about a friend who was sent on a critical evacuation to the nearest hospital. Well, not just one actually but several as if they have conspired to assault the serenity of the emergency room. Most of them my age and the rest are younger by several years. Their ailments are common for those in their mid life—high blood pressure, cardiac vein blockade, diabetes, liver cirrhosis, pancreatic defects, ulcer, cancer, lung trouble, etc., name it, and the catalogue is there, the list seemed endless. Looked like all my friends subdivided all ailments due those in our age range and now they all troop to the hospital for confirmation.
What staggered my friends is the cost of hospitalization. Admission is a shocker already. Add the laboratory and initial examination, the basic medical and related supplies, then one suspects already that he lived to earn that which he intends to pay in one day what for decades he scrimped for hard work.
Most if not all my friends are hearty eaters. The loved good foods: tasty, nutritious and everything included in the pamphlet for delicatessen. And they do not only pamper themselves with the flavor and tang, they literally empty everything that passes through their fancy. In other words, they eat not only a mouthful, but a lot. That for me is where the trouble begins. When the food ingested is not burned, it becomes toxic. Once it becomes poison, then the internal organs of the body suffers. The person gets sick and not only sick in a passing way, but treacherously sick. That explains why those who do not feel well would never walk slowly for check up; they are brought in a stretcher!
The Christmas season, its celebratory façade, may be blamed. Everything nutritious abound. Prosperity is artificially created to establish accomplishment and everyone is enjoined to partake. That is where ailments are triggered. Good food flows everywhere. Plus holidays and merry making. It is enough fuses to ignite an explosive period on one’s health. And usually, the explosion pushes one inside the Intensive Care Unit of the hospital!
I don’t know but this season, I intend to fast for my friends.
I have been a prison administrator for more than three decades and the prison community is almost like my world. Actually it is the only universe I know outside of the solar system. Passing through, making way, getting to, working on has been a principal concern of my office right inside the prison compound. I am always in the habit of jotting down anything I could fancy, recording, taking notes on various aspects of institutional life, analyzing matters that border on the extraordinary. After all, the prison community is one such homogenous society, the exact opposite of the free community and completely different and composed of a galaxy of characters that pulsate on a different plane by its own right. It has its own culture and norm, language and even a share of something unusual and exceptional.
There is one aspect that invited curious attention. This is one group that stands out from the time the gates of prison is opened for visitation. 9 out of 10 visitors are closely related to the prison population. They are almost an institution in itself. They are the common-law-wives—the informal better-halves of prisoners. And there are two categories here of this marital situation. Those who were contracted before, that are, prior to incarceration. And those, while under detention.
The relationship forged before and after would intersect at the cross roads in prison and the effects are telling. This can be represented by two cases.
Mila regularly visits his common-law-husband in prison. They have five children and she was forced to do laundry to sustain the family. In between breaks from contracted household chore, she would pay a visit to the prison community. Sometimes she would bundle the youngest so that her spouse would have an inspiration while serving time. During visitation, the couple could be seen in one corner pledging undying support for one another and praying for another lease of opportunity to do the right thing after the period of incarceration.
Landa regularly visits his common-law-husband in prison too. She knew her husband through correspondence. She was a household help and she oftentimes spend her whole afternoon listening to radio while doing the chores. She heard the story of one prisoner who was in dire need of counsel and she would correspond to him regularly. She was impressed with the guy and so she braved to pay him a visit. She withdrew a part of her savings, bought some groceries and went to the penal facility to check on her new acquaintance. She expected something romantic since in their exchange of letters the man has been daring her for a relationship. From that time on, she would regularly attend to her beau and the man, who swore as estranged already from any relationship, would go further by writing authorities to record the name of the visitor as his common-law-wife.
For every Mila in the visitation hall, there were five Landas in the midst. The Milas would be repaid with fanatical loyalty when their loved ones see the light of freedom. The Landas on the other hand would partake a different path. They will be given a number of promises, sweet and encouraging ones, but when their spouse would be discharged they would be left only with a promise of a fulfilling company. The Landas would wait a lifetime for the promise to be fulfilled until she would again trek the prison to check on a common friend on the status of her man. The visit in prison would initiate another relationship after a word would be heard that her man has been declared as desaparacido—missing and presumed dead already. Although prisoners whose relationship was contracted while in detention would find the relationship as favorable while serving time, once released they find that having another at their back is a baggage and useless for a traveler. Besides, prisoners would rather go back to their community of orientation and to their families after a period of absence.
And so the Landas would be left holding an empty bag. They would however be consoled by their common friend, another prisoner who takes interest in them. They, individually, would be an assiduous visitor to her new found lover until release would separate them. She would be back in prison, already ageing and still hopeful. She knew prison like the back of her hand already, street smart and confident despite the numerous times she felt duped. She may not be able to project a competitive look among the new Landas in the midst but she could facilitate everything for the prison community. She can be a mule for their requirements, legal and illegal. They represent the silent but menacing third category among those queuing daily to enter the prison visitation hall.
For prison administrators, identifying this specific sector is already an accomplishment.
Science has improved its analytical and peripheral boundaries to the point of understanding even those matters considered taboo and beyond comprehension. It has transcended the limits and it may even breach the unknown and undiscovered territories. Of late, it has already understood the minutest details that define life, the molecules, particles and atoms that made life possible. The only missing component is not an appreciation of the scientific treatise in furthering that which animates existence but the technical bravura in exploring, however brutal, on how life should be built.
In various laboratories, we find countless experimentation. Mice, insects, rabbits, dogs, monkeys, name it, their innards are all studied meticulously and data counter checked with that which pertains human parts. Response of various living things on a specific stimulation is also tested as against that which affects a human being. Almost every conceivable test has been explored. There are those that do not merit ethics and there are those too sensitive to divulge. Nonetheless the road to extensive discovery is filled to the brim. The future is overflowing with hope and possibilities. Life as we know it today could mean another form of existence in the forthcoming period.
I have as yet to verify however if there are attempts in altering life. There were successful experiments done on plants and it was some kind of a novelty.
I have to check whether these cacti’s lifespan has been changed though. But from the looks of it, life can be altered according to one’s specification. And if this can be done on plants, I think it could also be conducted on a human being. There are even laboratory research where DNA can be studied in detail and revised accordingly to suit one’s preference. Of late, DNA tests suggest a revelation on future physical predisposition of those who posess a set of genes and his proclivities. From there the next step could only border on speculation. This situation can only be expressed however in films, in sci-fi novels and it is still within the realm of imagination.
There were notable experiments done during the war carried out by the scientific community, exploring on man’s body parts. Medics of invading army on the guise of treating injured persons would pluck out from these ailing subjects, especially those arrested suspects to pluck out their parts, inter changed it and then observed. Livers, heart, internal organs, skin, eyes, extremities (even hair follicles) all were tugged and pulled out, yanked and tweaked if only to check whether it was medically possible to transplant body parts. There were successful medical cases which has been concluded and highlighted in medical and scientific journals.
There was a time when the most delicate has been conducted already, that of heart transplant. Now it is common place. Another is open heart surgery where veins are used to replace ruined arteries in the heart or in such cases like cardiac catheterization. And there are also kidney and liver transplants. Science even went further by growing earlobes and noses in the laboratory using disks, cells and other chemicals and then re-attached it on the body where it is needed.
Science is only a few years away from achieving the unthinkable—that of transplanting the entire body parts of a person into another thus saving and extending his life to achieve more years. Parts may be grown in a laboratory flask, or on the person himself or through cloning and stem cell procedures. This may take a little complicated scientific journey but this could be done. The short cut and the most expedient may also be available by tapping the potential of the prison community.
Not that I am advocating the reduction on piece meal basis the body parts of prisoners but it is the most accessible in terms of sourcing. This would border on horror and human rights transgressions if not properly conveyed but let us discuss the merits for scientific purposes. If we cannot conceive of any plan to abolish imprisonment and replace it with alternative penal sanctions like community service and the like, we might as well look into how we can tap the vast resources of warm bodies deteriorating under the glaring tension of years under incarceration.
Most offenders are sentenced to serve time for several years under tormenting schedule and afflictive situation. Prolonged incarceration has a toll on the respiratory, nervous, digestive system of the person. Imprisonment is one factor that could ruin and send a person to a debilitating circumstance. Notwithstanding welfare provisions in the matter of treating prisoners humanely, the fact that his freedom is curtailed, his movements contained and even thought processes controlled, are enough to obliterate inhumanely whatever it is that makes the human body the temple it ought to be. There must be some kind of a divine justice somewhere using certain equation.
If there is one offender for every one thousand law abiding citizens, I would even venture to say that there is also one mortally sick person for every one thousand healthy individuals. Following this logic, I hope I am wrong, the prisoner can therefore through his body part contribute to that ailing law abiding citizen’s salvation. This has been the usual tact why some time ago, a group of foreigners representing their principal sought medical intervention through procurement of body parts from prisoners. This practise was banned eventually. Furthermore, there was a small town in a remote barrio where this has been a routine, until there was saturation. Most of those in the town had surgical marks on their torso indicating medical procedure for organ donation.
This is not a treatise on organ donation but rather a call for calibrated study to explore the possibility of tapping the prison community, that wing where prisoners are given a gross penalty for prolonged sentences to ameliorate their sins through anatomical contribution. Their respective prison terms would nonetheless devastate their bodies just the same notwithstanding years of rationed and government supported maintenance.
Science may one day surprise us with a medical bulletin that it can replace mechanically the entire body organs of one person thus leaving his brain to subsist and contribute wisdom for years and years to come. And while prisoners may be considered as vile and bane, a dark spot in humanity, it can also be that beacon of light which hold the key to a bright future.
NEWS DISPATCH: Palawan Governor Joel and Mayor Mario Reyes are among the so-called “Big 5” fugitives in a list drawn up by the Philippine National Police. The others are retired Armed Forces Maj. Gen. Jovito Palparan, dubbed “the butcher” by human rights groups; Dinagat Island Rep. Ruben Ecleo Jr., who is wanted for murdering his wife; and Globe Asiatique real estate developer Delfin Lee, wanted for syndicated estafa involving P7 billion in fraudulent housing loans.
THE NATIONAL PENITENTIARY for quite some time has become a recipient of serious censure for handling offenders. It has been denigrated for maltreating inmates, disparaged for handling programs, condemned for loose management of high profile convicts.
Accordingly, the penal facilities are porous, its personnel demoralized, the administrators indifferent, budget insufficient, equipage floundering, programs faltering and no security policy effectively drawn. Worst, it is one agency whose legal basis (Prison Law of 1917) is vintage and operates through measures which is only based on reaction and consequence. If the one appointed at the helm of the institution is a trained asylum administrator then it functions properly. (We wanted to have a good pilot to fly us and we abhor the view to board a plane whose pilot is never trained at all unless of course we intend to quit whatever it is there in our future.)
I have heard a lot of prison administrators appointed by national leadership quip whenever they are confronted with critical challenges in managing prisons. Their complaints are eerily similar. The challenges in prison are different from those they stumbled upon where they came from. (Talk of a pilot who is about to land and has encountered turbulence expressing lamentation that driving a plane is different from his training as a basketball coach!)
Our penal establishments, especially the national penitentiary, are designed for ordinary detainees. The recurring theme of rehabilitating sick persons still the pervading approach applied although blended with token educational activities. This does not hold significant control when implemented on a special sector, say for convicted drug lords, celebrity personalities, high profile cases and high security risk captives. The penitentiary can hold toe to toe with pure predators, notorious and deranged characters but would fall short when it comes to moneyed, highly educated, largely influential, prominent and dominant class of incarcerated persona.
Prisons are not prepared for this kind of sector. It has no defining rule promoting control. It is not even primed to deal with gangs. Gangs predominate the landscape of institutional direction. Prisons have no power to check the circulation of contraband, money in particular. It could not even manipulate and dominate the reformatory climate through rules because it is vintage that its implementers would oftentimes find themselves at the tail end evading complaints for human rights violation.
And now this. If in the normal course of events, the Big 5 will finally be brought to the bar of justice and eventually be found guilty, will the penitentiary be able to control this group vis-a-vis the sworn institutional weaknesses it has as yet to resolve. Media is only too excited to get this development up their sleeve. Prison scandal sells like hotcake anywhere and in anyway.