A ROADMAP TOWARD SYSTEMIC INSTITUTIONAL CHANGE
By: P/Supt. IV Venancio J. Tesoro, Bureau of Corrections
Over the past two decades, the Bureau of Corrections has been in need of meaningful institutional improvement in the areas of corrections management, prisoner rehabilitation programs, and in the optimum utilization of its natural resources. The fact that Correctional Administration is one of the main pillars of the criminal justice system, in equal footing with law enforcement, prosecution, the court and the community, it is imperative that the correctional system be given its due importance and attention.
The constant turnover in prison leadership who, by tradition or accommodation, have come from the field of law enforcement, bringing with them a background of a different training and set of personal priorities that are not cognizant of the deeper need for operational systems desired for effective correctional administration with stability and continuity of policies. From the bureaucracy’s point of view, the long learning curve and the ingrained law enforcement mind-set, a real and effective blueprint for correctional administration can hardly be realized if this practice is further perpetuated.
A roadmap toward systemic institutional change is being put forward within the purview of the legal mandate or purpose of the Bureau of Corrections, as follows:
- Security – To confine persons who are convicted by the courts to serve a sentence in national prisons; and to prevent prisoners from committing crimes while in custody;
- Rehabilitation – To provide humane treatment by affording the inmates’ basic human needs in the prison environment and prohibiting cruel methods; and, to provide a variety of rehabilitation programs designed to change their pattern of criminal or anti-social behavior; and,
- Development – To engage in agro-industrial projects for the purpose of developing prison lands and resources into productive bases or profit centers, developing and employing inmate manpower skills and labor, providing prisoners with a source of income, and augmenting the Bureau’s yearly appropriations.
In meeting these mandate, the roadmap is envisaged to lead toward:
- Organizational strengthening through the upgrading of physical facilities and standardization of equipment; personnel matching with the growing prison population and with the official functions in penal facilities; pay grade parity of organic and civilian employees with agencies having similar custodial functions; adoption of available information and security technology; and, the establishment of regional Correctional Institutions for Women.
- Firm policies on operational practices that will be most advantageous to the institution, and for the effective management of the prison population (both employees and inmates alike), and uplifting programs for the rehabilitation of prisoners.
- Judicious and legal approach to the development of the natural resources of all penal farms, with the intent to satisfy the prison community’s food sufficiency requirements, and for commercial production toward revenue generation in satisfying its development mandate.
- Review of all prison laws and their corresponding implementing rules and regulations that would eventually lead to the drafting of a present-day relevant Corrections Act for endorsement to Congress.
While the process of instituting systemic change is envisaged to be implemented over the 6-year incumbency of President-elect Benigno C. Aquino III, it may be put in motion immediately considering the personal knowledge of correctional operations intimately for the past 35 years of service. The execution of these legal mandate is anchored also on the strength of its organization, and the vision and political will of its leadership; on the adoption of up-to-date practices to security and rehabilitation; on policies with regard to asset development; and, on innovative financing modes to undertake and ensure that the development of assets satisfy solely the first two mandates of security and rehabilitation.
To illustrate, the roadmap aims to address BuCor’s “Security” mandate of ‘confining persons convicted by the courts, and the prevention of crime while in custody’. It is common knowledge that the present physical facilities of prisons are overcrowded, according to the area-per-prisoner human rights measure of the United Nations, and that existing security technology and equipment are outdated based on international corrections standard.
This congestion exacerbates the difficulties of security management, and for effecting rehabilitation of prisoners. Moreover, there are many instances of prisoners, while their cases are on appeal, being incarcerated beyond the required time commensurate to their offense or sentence. This can be attributed to an inadequate administrative system that fails to monitor and flag such negligent occurrences.
As a result, the government not only violates human rights but incurs unnecessary expenses for prisoners who should no longer be confined. However, in the light of government’s present financial hardships, solving both the logistical limitations and security concerns of its penal system is untenable by conventional methodology. This situation presents an opportune moment for formulating policies that would raise funds from the development of its assets whose proceeds are to be applied solely for institutional improvements of all of the BuCor’s Prisons and Penal Farms and Correctional Institutes for Women, to name just a couple of objectives:
- Upgrading physical facilities to be at par with international corrections standard, and/or expand the inmates’ confinement area to meet acceptable human rights measure; and,
- Applying available information technology for an administrative monitoring and tracking system of prisoners’ records and schedule of hearings; and, to flag the point where custodial and civilian employees are qualified for benefits or promotion.
First 100 days
Toward this end, the following activities will be undertaken to enable the BuCor to assess the scope and pre-requisites of the subsequent actions to be taken to realize systemic institutional improvements:
- Conduct a financial, asset, personnel and performance audit to determine the current financial position, asset inventory, personnel ratio for administrative and custodial functions, salary grades, and the upgrading or addition of physical structures required for meeting the needs of the current bulging prison population.
- Installation of an Information Technology System to capture and store critical information digitally on employees’ service records, and on each prisoner’ confinement record. This shall serve as the basis for establishing promotions standards for employees. This system should also be able to track the time served from the prisoners’ sentence, and pave the way for their release, if warranted, to decongest the present prison facilities and reduce operating costs. It is estimated that some 5% of the present prison population would fall under this category.
- Review and evaluation of all policies pertaining to prison operations and custodial practices, toward formulating operational policies that would break up gang affiliations and declare essential assets as contraband with the end in view of regaining full control of the prison instead of the gangs and their assets controlling the employees.
- Review and evaluation of all catering contracts pertaining to the food ration of prisoners, toward formulating policies that would reactivate and strengthen the production of appropriate penal farms for basic staple food and livestock products in order that BuCor will become a net exporter beyond the requirements of the institution and the prison community.
- Investigate the situation of the Correctional Institute for Women, and study the need for establishing regional facilities for women, as well as for the installation of an Assistant Director for Corrective Programs for Women.
- Inventory and valuate all fixed assets of the agency, as well as determine its legal documentation which will lead to the full survey and titling of prison lands for future development by administration or with third parties.
- Review and evaluate all existing Joint Venture Agreements pertaining to prison lands, and determine whether the agency is receiving its revenue share based on fair market standards.
- Formulate policies that the revenues to be generated from the development of land resources, beyond those that are needed for the internal consumption of the prison community, shall be solely for programs of the prison and penal farm, and for the upgrading of physical structures, and the installation of administrative and security systems, and for programs focusing on prisoner rehabilitation, as mentioned above.
- Compilation and annotation of all pertinent prison laws and rules for the purpose of drafting a current and relevant Corrections Act for endorsement to Congress into law. It will be noted that the Prisons Act of 1917 is still being adopted and obviously outmoded in the context of present-day setting.
While this paper reflects the personal thoughts of the undersigned, it is being put forward from opinions and observations derived from 35 years of service with the Bureau of Corrections, and its purpose is singly for instilling reforms from within the system in order that the agency may function with the continuity of its policies and programs as an institution, regardless of future changes in its leadership.
It is recognized that after the conclusion of the above activities for first 100 days, it is only then that the real work will commence and envisaged to be set in place as a blueprint for Correction Administration within the next 6-year term of President Benigno C. Aquino III. This paper does not claim to be comprehensive but it will point out the more critical and urgent needs that have to be addressed. For this purpose, it will be a work-in-progress and its development toward perfection is one that only organic personnel from within the Bureau of Corrections can be sensitive to.
VENANCIO J. TESORO
Prison Superintendent IV
Bureau of Corrections