Sad facts of our provincial jails

NOV 25-DEC 1, 2010

COMMENTARY

It’s hard to be imprisoned in the prison jails in our country.  But it has been that the hard life and worst conditions in our penal system and the slow-moving wheels of justice system are part of the punishment of those who break our laws, maim and kill people, those who commit crime as found guilty by the courts. And yet this is evenly the same to those who are not yet adjudged guilty like those locked up in municipal or city jails following arrest from crime circumstances that those brought by the police have been seen to have committed the crime, or are on the process of committing the crime or about to commit a crime, or those simply finger pointed by complainants or witnesses or invited by the police for questioning and locked up. Or those brought by the police for safekeeping purposes like those who went maoy (wild) inside videokehans. Innocents may have been released after the police failure to make swift and complete inquest before the 24-hour allowed detention or else arbitrary detention charges can be thrown against the arresting police officers. But just the same those locked up in municipal or city jails have tasted what the worst in our penal system can  inflict to the physical and mental stability of suspects or persons under custodial investigation or under police safekeeping.

And now there’s this continuing injustice coming up from the principle of justice delayed is justice denied when almost all of those languishing inside the provincial jails of Davao del Norte and of Compostela Valley in Tagum City have their cases not yet decided by courts. Those inmates serving already their sentences do not know yet as to how many years they have to spend their wretched time inside jails and for sure those languishing for long years now like the one who is already spending 11 years behind bars are thinking that maybe their incarceration time might have already exceeded the supposed sentence that the court would have to mete them. What a great injustice that the courts can’t make reparation for this should this prisoner’s afterthought happen.

Surely, the Supreme Court’s Justice on Wheels program is responding to this. But local jails and courts are yet challenged to get to the bottom of the circumstances and status of each case of the more than 700 inmates of the Provincial Rehabilitation Centers (PRC) of the two provinces and recommend more inmates for processing of the Justice on Wheels. The stark evidence that constantly challenged authorities is that provincial jails are only supposed to keep inmates sentenced to three years and below, but what a heck when almost all of them don’t know yet whether they would be sentenced to fall within this period of imprisonment as those charged of graver offenses are awaiting under too much congestion when they would be remanded to higher jail, which is the Davao Penal Colony. And this fact alone is putting more responsibility to provincial governments especially the Compostela Valley PRC which has 540 inmates under its care as against the 206 inmates of Davao del Norte PRC.

With these revelations, the provincial governments  including the justice committees of legislative departments (for the start) have been challenged to probe and find recommendations and ways to respond to the plight of their inmates and situations of their provincial jails.- Cha Monforte

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