Security Procedures in Philippine Correctional Institution: from admission to release

Security Procedures

The backbone of a correctional facility is good security.  As a matter of fact, every aspect of custodial concern relates to security.  If there is an operational area, which marks the difference between prison custody and police security as a rule in dealing with violations, it lays mainly in their rules of engagement.  If a prisoner poses a challenge at corrective functions as in escaping, the convict is presumed to be armed and dangerous and therefore must be pursued and subdued using any and all means with emphasis on fatal effects.  A ‘shoot-to-kill’ move is presumed unless contrary orders are given.

It does not apply to a person held and without conviction yet.  The constitutional presumption of innocence still shields the detainee from any untoward harm, whether the latter has caused the violation or otherwise.  Under the precepts of correctional security, the heavy burden of securing not only the person of both staff and inmate is highlighted, including the integrity of the institution as well.  Hence, correctional security must be handled by men of exemplary probity and trained in the social science with exactitude.

Admission of Prisoner

The formal Correctional process begins from the time the accused is convicted, whether he is to serve time for violating an ordinance (in which case he would serve his sentence in local jails) or the Revised Penal Code (in which case he would be sent to the national penitentiary to serve his penalty).  Spending time in jail or being locked-up while awaiting conviction is not a formal entry to the correctional system yet and therefore the accused’s presumption of innocence remains as it was, and he must be handled and treated as such.  Unless the accused files a request for “working detention,” he cannot be compelled to don the prison/jail uniform nor subjected to the regimen an ordinary prisoner undergoes while under confinement.

In the event the accused is convicted for violating the Revised Penal Code (and other special laws) and is given a sentence with a maximum period of more than three (3) years, he is to be transported to the National Penitentiary within a period of 60 days.  This period is to be reckoned on the date of the Commitment Order, as issued by the Court.

Correctional authorities must be guided by, and observe in due course, the following:

  1. Those whose maximum sentence is below three years:  to serve time in local jails

  1. Those whose sentence is below three years but whose sentence includes a fine of more than P2,000.00: for transfer to the national penitentiary.
  1. Those whose maximum sentence is more than three (3) years:  for transfer to the national penitentiary

  1. Those whose cases are still under trial:  to await judicial verdict in local jails or under bail.  In some situations where national security reasons or court rules are invoked, the person may be transferred to the National Penitentiary subject to orders issued by competent authorities (such as the President, Congress, and Courts)

  1. Those who commit violations in parole or executive clemency:  for transfer to the national penitentiary to serve the remaining portion of the penalty
  1. Those who are captured escapees from the national penitentiary:  for transfer to the national penitentiary to serve remaining portion of penalty along with the penalty for evasion.

Admission in Prison

By “National Penitentiary” is meant any of the seven prisons and penal farms under the Bureau of Corrections.  Under Presidential Decree No. 29, all penal colonies are declared as regular prisons.  Hence, operationally, the Bureau of Corrections has been decentralized.

The following penal facilities are considered as regular prisons, corresponding to the area where it is situated.

  1. New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City.  For those sentenced to Death regardless of place of conviction.  Also, for those from the New Capital Region, Regions I, II, III, IV and V.
  1. Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, Puerto Princesa City, Palawan:  From the province of Palawan and Region IV-A.
  1. Davao Prison and Penal Farm, Davao del Norte:  From Caraga, Regions IX, X and XI.
  1. Leyte Regional Prison, Abuyog, Southern Leyte:  From Regions VI, VII and VIII.
  2. Correctional Institute for Women, Mandaluyong City:  For all female national prisoners in the country.
  1. Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm, Sablayan,  Mindoro Occidental:  From the Mindoro Province.
  1. San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm, Zamboanga City:  From ARMM and Region XII.

Each of these prisons and penal farms maintains reception centers for the newly received/ admitted national prisoners.

Checking the Commitment Order

Under institutional rules, a newly admitted prisoner shall be received and admitted by the facility (Reception and Diagnostic Center of the concerned prison and penal farm) only if the following legal documents for imprisonment are present:

  1. Provincial Form Number 45:  This will indicate that the person to be turned over is the real person concerned
  1. Commitment Order of the Court / Mittimus:  Legal basis for the transfer.  (Note:  The mittimus or court commitment order shall have the signature of the judge and shall bear the seal of the court attested by the clerk of court.)
  1. Information and Court Decision of the Case:  For determination of sentence
  1. Certification of Detention: For purposes of evaluating the prison record
  1. Certification that the case of the inmate is not on appeal:  For purposes of evaluation.

Strip Search and Inventory of Personal Property

Upon admission, the inmate is searched thoroughly.  He is ushered into the quarantine area for purposes of physical examination. While undergoing classification or being categorized by institution, he is allowed to retain in his possession only such articles as are authorized.

A list of articles taken from the inmate is entered in the inmate’s record and receipted for by the receiving officer.  Said articles will be returned upon the inmate’s discharge, unless any or all of said articles are previously disposed of at the inmate’s request or ordered condemned by the Superintendent after a lapse of two (2) years.

Register

A registration / log book shall contain details on the newly received prisoner.  The register shall contain the following:

  1. Name of the Inmate
  1. Reason for commitment and the authority therefore
  1. Sentence
  1. Date and hour of admission
  1. Date and hour of discharge or transfer and basis therefore.  This is for institutional purposes since the newly received prisoner is subject to a 60-day orientation period.  Thereafter, the inmate is initially classified and transferred to an operating institution along with his cell and program assignment.

Identification

After the registration procedures, the inmate shall undergo the following administrative routine:

  1. Photographed (front and side view)
  2. Fingerprinted
  1. Assigned a Prison Number.

Regulation Haircut and Government Issues

As a security measure, male prisoners are subjected to a regulation haircut.  Beard / mustache, if any, are shaven off.  Also, the inmate will be issued two (2) regulation uniforms and two (2) t-shirts.  In addition, the prisoner is issued the following items for his use (which must be surrendered when released or discharged), to wit,

  1. One (1) blanket
  1. One (1) mat
  1. One (1) pillow with pillow case
  1. One (1) mosquito net
  1. One (1) mess kit
  1. One (1) pair, slippers.

Classification of Prisoners

All correctional facilities have their respective classification board headed by the Superintendent and his staff.  Inmates are classified according to their security status and determined security risk category.  The categories are as follows:

  1. Maximum Security – This includes highly dangerous or high security risk inmates as determined by the Classification Board.  Under this category belong:
  1. Those sentenced to death
  1. Those whose minimum sentence is twenty (20) years.
  1. Remand prisoners whose sentence is twenty years and above and those whose sentences are under review by the Supreme Court or  the Court of Appeals
  1. Those with pending cases
  1. Recidivists, habitual delinquents and escapees
  1. Those confined at the Reception and Diagnostic Center
  1. Those under disciplinary punishment or safekeeping
  2. Those who are certified as criminally insane or those with severe personality or emotional disorders.
  1. Medium Security – Here we find:
  1. Those who are below twenty years
  1. Those who are 18 years of age and below, regardless of the case and sentence
  1. Those who have two (2) or more records of escape, if they have served eight (8) years since they were recommitted.  Those with one record of escape must have served five years to be reclassified to medium security
  1. First offenders sentenced to life imprisonment, if they have served five (5) years in maximum security. It does not include those who have served in local jails by way of detention.
  1. Minimum Security – Those reasonably trusted to serve their penalty under less restricted conditions.  It includes the following:
  1. Those with severe physical handicap, as certified by the Chief Medical Officer of the institution.
  2. Those who are 65 years old and above who are without a pending case and whose convictions are not on appeal
  1. Those who have served one-half of their minimum sentence or one-third of their maximum sentence, excluding Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA)
  1. Those who have only six (6) months more to serve before the expiration of their maximum sentence.

Uniform Dress Code

Determination of the security category under which a prisoner falls is by the color of his prison uniform, which is as follows:

  1. Maximum security:  Tangerine
  1. Medium Security:  Blue
  1. Minimum security:  Brown
  1. Detainee:  Gray

Colonist Status

Inmates are given entitlements as to privileges, in addition to those granted within their classification limitations.  This is considered as achieving “colonist status”.  Under this system, the Director of Corrections, upon recommendation of the Classification Board, classifies an inmate as a colonist.  Qualified for this status is:

  1. One whose known character and credit for work while serving time earned an assignment on trust basis for more than one year
  1. One who has served imprisonment with good conduct for a period equivalent to one fifth of the maximum term of his prison sentence or, in the case of one who is serving a life sentence, seven years. His privileges include the following:
  1. Automatic reduction of the life sentence imposed on the colonist to a sentence of 30 years
  1. Allowing his family to live with him, with the government shouldering transportation requirements in the movement, and availing of hospital, church, school, and other services provided by such prison facilities, free of charge.  This privilege is granted to prisoners serving time in penal farms only
  1. Issuance of a reasonable amount of clothing and ordinary household supplies from the government commissary, in addition to free subsistence
  1. The option to wear civilian clothes on such special occasions as may be designated by the Superintendent.

Releasing the Prisoner

Kinds of Releases

Prisoners are released from confinement for any of the following reasons:

  1. Upon expiration of his sentence
  1. By order of the Court or of competent authority
  1. After being granted parole, pardon (clemency) or amnesty. In the matter of executive clemency and parole cases, the Director of Corrections submits the inmate’s prison record to the Board of Pardons and Parole within the following periods:
  1. For commutation of sentence:  at least one (1) month before the expiration of one-third of the minimum period of the inmate’s indeterminate sentence and in special cases, at least one (1) month before the periods specified by the Board
  1. For conditional pardon:  at least one month before the expiration of one half of the minimum period of the inmate’s indeterminate sentence and in special cases, at least one month before the periods as the board may specify
  1. For parole:  at least one month before the expiry date of his minimum sentence.

Authority To Release

Those authorized to order or approve the release of inmates are:

  1. The Supreme Court or the lower courts (in cases of acquittal or grant of bail)
  1. The President of the Philippines (in cases of executive clemency or amnesty)
  1. The Board of Pardons and Parole (in parole cases)
  1. The Director of Corrections (upon the expiration of the sentence of the inmate)

Separation and Placement Center

A facility called the Separation and Placement Center is maintained for prisoners to be released i.e. those whose scheduled date of release shall be issued within 30 days.  It is here where the prisoner is cleared of his government property accountability.

Inmates in this facility undergo a one-day seminar in preparation for their lives outside prison.  As a matter of course, they are provided by the agency with transportation fare to their homes, plus a gratuity to cover the probable cost of subsistence en route and, if practicable, a set of clothing.

The release of prisoners is conducted by the institution superintendent, with the approval of the Director of Corrections.

Proper Identification Before Releasing

Prior to his release, the prisoner is properly identified through fingerprints and other identification marks as verified from pertinent records in his admission, taking into consideration the distinguishing marks noted in reports.

Prisoners are not released through telegrams sent, or telephone calls made, by unnamed / unauthorized sources.  Inmates released by reason of acquittal, dismissal of the case, the filing of bond, or the payment of indemnity are released upon receipt by the Superintendent of a written order bearing the seal of the court and duly signed by the clerk of court or by the judge.

Release of Foreign National Prisoner

As a rule, inmates must be released without unnecessary delay.  In cases where an inmate to be released is suffering from a communicable disease or mental derangement and cannot defray the expenses for his treatment, the Superintendent shall take the necessary steps to refer said inmate to, or arrange for his follow-up treatment in, an appropriate government institution.

In the case of a foreign national prisoner about to be released, the Director of Corrections must notify the Commissioner of Immigration 30 days before the approximate date of release.  Accordingly, the following documents should be submitted to the Immigration Commissioner.

  1. Certified copies of the court decision
  2. Synopsis of the prison record
  1. Expected date release.

Released Prisoner with Pending Case(s)

In instances when an inmate to be released has a pending case, the Director must give the court where the case is pending at least 30 days’ notice before the actual date of release.  The proper recourse would be to turn over the released inmate to the court where the inmate has a pending criminal case for disposition.

Prohibition in Releasing

In accordance with rules, inmates are not allowed to leave, or to be released from, prison 60 days before and thirty (30) days after an election except for valid or legal reasons.

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About Ven J. Tesoro

writer, prison officer, artist
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3 Responses to Security Procedures in Philippine Correctional Institution: from admission to release

  1. jun villarmia says:

    sir, is there any difference between commitment order and mittimus?

    • A commitment order is an act of sending a person to prison by means of such a warrant or order. Mittimus on the other hand is a process issued by the court after conviction to carry out the final judgment, such as commanding a prison warden to hold the accused, in accordance with the terms of the judgment. Mittimus is often attached on the commitment order issued by the court whenever the convict is to be transferred to prison for service of sentence.

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