Providing appropriate interventions to prisoners or persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) to prevent them from becoming repeat offenders will help decongest the country’s overpopulated penal and detention facilities.
Bicol Saro part-list Rep. Brian Raymund Yamsuan made this observation as he cited initiatives by the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) to decongest detention facilities under its supervision, leading to the release of over 74,000 inmates in the first 10 months of 2023.
“The BJMP’s jail decongestion initiatives not only involve speeding up the necessary legal processes to free PDLs eligible for release, but also rehabilitation programs that provide them with jobs and livelihood opportunities to help them return to society as productive individuals,” said Yamsuan, a staunch advocate for reforms in the country’s correctional system.
Citing a report submitted by the BJMP to his office, Yamsuan said on top of assisting PDLs in legal and paralegal services, the agency has also encouraged tie-ups with tertiary educational institutions through its College Education Behind Bars (CEBB) program for PDLs; coordinated with the Department of Education (DepEd) to implement its alternative learning system inside jails; and provided PDLs with training on employable skills.
Yamsuan said the BJMP has also motivated artistically inclined PDLs to showcase their creative talents through artworks and handicrafts to boost their morale and help them earn money that they can send to their families.
Such efforts were recently demonstrated by the PDL Livelihood Products Exhibit that the BJMP set up at the House of Representatives’ Batasan Complex in partnership with Yamsuan’s office.
“Through these initiatives, the BJMP is able to prevent recidivism among the PDLs under its care. By breaking the cycle of reoffending through appropriate rehabilitation programs, the BJMP was able to make significant headway in its jail decongestion efforts,” said Yamsuan, a former assistant secretary of the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), which supervises over the jail management bureau.
According to the report submitted by the BJMP to his office, more than 20,000 PDLs are reoffenders as a result of inappropriate interventions provided to them while in jail, Yamsuan said.
Yamsuan suggested that key participants in the upcoming National Jail Decongestion Summit spearheaded by the Supreme Court and the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC) also focus on rehabilitation and appropriate intervention programs for PDLs to lower the recidivism rate and help ease jail overcrowding.
President Ferdinand Marcos Jr. is expected to take part in the Summit set on December 6 and 7 at the Diamond Hotel in Manila.
“One way to prevent recidivism is to help PDLs find jobs once they are up for release so that they can be productive. They would think twice before going back to their criminal past if they have decent jobs,” Yamsuan said.
According to a recent statement by DILG Secretary Benjamin Abalos Jr., the BJMP has so far facilitated the release of 74,590 PDLs in the first 10 months of 2023. This has lowered the congestion rate in BJMP jails from 281 percent in January to 238 percent in October.
Yamsuan joined Abalos in commending the BJMP, under the leadership of Jail Director Ruel Rivera, in implementing programs to address overcrowding in the country’s district, city and municipal jails.
The Bicol Saro lawmaker earlier said he is optimistic that the upcoming National Jail Decongestion Summit would yield fresh policies and programs meant to address overcrowding in the country’s jails and detention centers.
He said the sustainable solutions that would be fleshed out in the summit should be complemented by a concerted effort to unify the fragmented correctional system, as proposed under his measure—House Bill 8672—which aims to create a Department of Corrections and Jail Management (DCJM).
Yamsuan said unifying the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), which is currently under the DOJ; the BJMP of the DILG; the correctional and jail services of the provincial governments; the Board of Pardons and Parole (BPP); and the Parole and Probation Administration (PPA) under a single agency should be included in the list of these sustainable solutions to ensure the seamless coordination among the different agencies involved in the administration of justice and the management and care of PDLs.