Corrections in the Philippines

CORRECTIONS’ ROLE IN NATIONAL DEVELOPMENT

1. Corrections is one of the imperatives, nay, pillars of criminal justice administration. It is tasked to safe keep and to rehabilitate those convicted by the courts. It is in corrections where the better part, which is the greater duration, of a sentenced person as he spends the judicially prescribed penalty. It is therefore incumbent for correctional administration not only to watch over, as in custodial manner, those serving time but to manage the potential manpower it can offer through the requirements of social concerns.

2. Corrections is not only a field where inmates are controlled under a regime of discipline. It is not also a ground to dominate those who trespassed the laws. It is a period when the so called law-breakers, or the offenders are required to settle up their social transgression to society.

3. To settle up does not imply that they should be confined for an idle period prescribed by the courts, to while away time, to squander or fritter away a cycle. It should be devoted if not dedicated towards meeting the requirements of social progress.

4. We have a growing demand to expand educational programs and therefore the need for infrastructure. School buildings must be constructed and it goes without saying the multiplication of classrooms. Chairs and student desks are therefore the basic furnishings needed. Prisoners, like those in Australia and Hong Kong correctional establishments, may be harnessed for carpentry works.

5. DENR’s aggressive posture in guarding the forests at times (or oftentimes) given us reports on confiscated logs. These materials are significant not only as evidences idly stocked to rot, but should be brought to prisons for carpentry works and the produce distributed to schools for student use. No extra ordinary contracts for furniture, no graft. No extra ordinary safekeeping of confiscated logs, no pilferage.

6. The Bureau of Corrections must enter into an agreement with TESDA for skills development courses. Under this set up, Inmates may be classified according to skills program. Inmates trained in carpentry can produce furniture. Government offices, like those in Australia, need not procure their furniture elsewhere but in prison. Traffic agencies, like those in Hong Kong, need not haggle any contract for its traffic and related street signs. It can be done by inmates trained in graphic arts. Inmates trained in dressmaking can supply government uniforms for women workers. Inmates trained in tailoring can make available uniforms for the police and military, the same can be said for the provision of shoes by inmates taught on shoe making. So on and so forth.

7. The prison camp may be organized into a quasi factory where goods may be manufactured, packed (repacked), assembled or prepared. Penal farms may also be systematized so that agro products can be planned for mass production. All these are geared to create revenues for the prison community, for an additional, if not self sustaining, subsistence of prisoners, and reduce the burden of seeking prison appropriation from government funds, which can be diverted instead to education and health of the citizenry in the free community.

8. In other countries, corrective service is a planned activity undertaken by both government and private corporate organizations. Government appropriation is therefore cut in half because the other half and more are provided for by the private sector. Government gains an advantage in terms of savings, while the private sector achieves a measure of cost benefit from the use of prison facilities, security and manpower.

9. Corrections on local level may also be privatized like those in some states in USA and in Canada. This would reduce markedly graft and corruption and could even introduce savings and efficiency, not to mention the fact that rehabilitation can be fulfilled through the initiative of the volunteer and church sector.

10. As it were, corrections sits at the middle of the cross road anticipating events whether to be relevant to the efforts of government to compliment its efforts towards progress, or to just while away time, imposing control and staying on the sideline, securing the perimeter fence and reacting on any violent expression of an idle prison community.

11. Corrections entered the jargon of criminal justice (in 1986, replacing the name of the Bureau of Prisons into Bureau of Corrections under the 1987 Administrative Code) when it was used as nomenclature of an agency dealing with prisons and prisoners. But Corrections per se is not about prisons and prisoners only. Corrections, aside from institutional (prisons/jails), is also about non-institutional services (parole and probation). The Bureau of Corrections as provided for in the 1987 Administrative Code deals only with national prisoners. Other forms of corrective services were scattered. Probation and Parole Administration is a line agency of the Department of Justice (like the Bureau of Corrections); City, Municipal and District jails are under the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology—an agency supervised by the Department of Interior and Local Government; provincial jails are under the provincial government; children in conflict with the law are managed by the Department of Social Services and Development; etc. Corrections, as applied in the Philippine setting, is not the same corrections as practiced in other countries.

12. What is even glaring is the fact that for almost two decades, there were no laws passed pertaining corrections. Most if not all laws where penalties are prescribed, indicated the imposition of imprisonment—even in such instances where there are victimless crimes. That effectively bloated prison population. Corrections never had the chance to be applied according to its precepts since the mode of correctional administration was more on incarceration rather than rehabilitation. Worst, rehabilitation has never even been defined at all. While corrective service is supposed to be directed towards an open institution approach, what is obtaining in reality is that corrective facilities are moving towards the direction of a closed institution.

13. There are number of laws that can be proposed to situate corrections within the parameter of national importance. A Corrections Act may be recommended to integrate institutional and non institutional corrective service under a single department or commission. (Under this proposed bill, there will be a commissioner for each approach and the department or commission headed by a chairman. Privatization of local jails may also be included as an option.) Alternative to imprisonment may also be explored and community service may as well be its other penal expression. (This is an ideal penal approach for female offenders and those convicted of committing victimless crimes.) Work furlough may also be introduced as it has been one of the most effective penal approaches in other countries. Compulsory work may also be put forward as a means to generate revenues to sustain victim indemnity. (Under this concept, inmates enrolled in work activities are compensated and part of their income goes to national coffer for social remuneration.)

14. Some penal laws need amendments and revisions. The Bureau of Corrections has been incorporated as the new name of the Bureau of Corrections (under the 1987 Administrative Code), and yet the entire provision that animates the bureau is still unchanged. It is still based on the Prison Law of 1917. If at all there were revisions made, it was not according to the standard of treatment as enunciated by UN but mostly organizational. All jails, while it was still administratively under the Bureau of Prisons pursuant to the Prison law of 1917, have been transferred to a newly established Department (DILG). The same can be said about provincial jails. As a consequence, every corrective unit manifests its own corrective rules and regulation. Corrections for quite a time as a penal policy became as fragmented as ever.

15. Rules on parole, probation and other penal reliefs may also be looked into and studied carefully. These are significant basis for the national leadership in the grant of executive clemency. Inmates who have adjusted well and have contributed through discipline in matters pertaining penal production and maintenance should be given the necessary Presidential mercy and compassion in addition to the traditional basis of granting relief as a matter of political accommodation or expedience.

16. Unless these are undertaken, and more, corrections remains a figment, a criminal justice illusion, a fantasy recreated, and an expensive exercise in a overstretched governance.

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About Ven J. Tesoro

writer, prison officer, artist
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3 Responses to Corrections in the Philippines

  1. I like these 16-point action agenda that you have proposed. I have included them in my report on the Functions and Administration of Corrections in the Philippine Criminal Justice System (PCCR-graduate school). Thank you so much for your remarkable inputs and ideas. – TJ

  2. kline says:

    how much money in iwahig consume in all prisoners?? what does they do daily ?? in eating are they in catering or bowkie????

    • hI Kline, national prisoners, whether in Iwahig or in any prison establishment, the budget per head is P50.00 (philippine currency) or a dollar in US currency. Prisoners, depending on their security category are assigned in various work station and given specific work load during the period of serving their sentence or penalty. Food served to them is through catering. FYI

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