Government must ensure space and ventilation as well as health and paralegal services, especially for poor detainees
With a staggering jail congestion problem in the country, Senator Richard J. Gordon called on the government to ensure space and ventilation in jails and detention facilities because the crowded facilities are the major cause of the spread of infectious diseases among inmates.
Gordon, chairman of the Committee on Justice and Human Rights, pointed out that even before the Duterte administration, the Philippine penal system was ranked as the third most congested in the world, according to the University of London's Institute for Criminal Policy Research.
"The Human Rights Watch has also criticized our jails as straight out of Dante's Purgatory. Unfortunately, this is quite true. The Philippine Red Cross, having scoured the country, found out that jails and detention facilities all over the Philippines are massively overcrowded and lack sanitary facilities. There is a relentless and constant battle for space, water, food in an unhygienic facility, which can be seen in almost all the jails in the country," he said.
Data from the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology showed that an average of six inmates occupy a space of 4.7 square meters, which is intended for one prisoner. In some jails, inmates take turns sleeping on the basketball court, chapel, walkways or staircase, while in some jails, inmates search for corners to squat against as they sleep.
Gordon said that due to the lack of ventilation in the jails, inmates easily contract air-borne diseases like tuberculosis. Inmates also suffer from rashes and boils because of the lack of ventilation and water.
"The unbearable living condition inside the jails is made even worse for the inmates by the prospect that it could be years before their cases are decided and many of them are not eligible for bail or they cannot afford to pay the bond," he said.
Hence, the senator also pointed to the need for the government to provide health and paralegal services, especially for poor detainees.