Inmate population in 466 Bureau of Jail Management and Penology or BJMP-run jails in the country soared to 142,282 by end of last June, doubling since 2013, or in just 42 months.
This rapid rise, according to Senate President Pro-Tempore Ralph Recto, is putting a strain on state resources as taxpayers cough up P81,732 to feed, house, and guard one BJMP inmate annually.
And the BJMP is just one of the three agencies holding prisoners, Recto pointed out.
The Bureau of Corrections keeps watch over 41,258 sentenced felons in eight penitentiaries, while Philippine National Police runs 458 town jails in addition to precinct-level “holding cells.”
“It is safe to assume that the BJMP population has surpassed the 150,000-mark by now,” Recto added. In June, the inmate population peaked at 148,393, but went down due to the release of inmates.
Behind the jails’ “population explosion,” Recto explained, “is the surge in drug-related arrests.” Two in three BJMP inmates are charged of violating Republic Act 9165, the Comprehensive Dangerous Drugs Act of 1992, the senator said.
As of June 30, BJMP records show that 97,321 inmates were in for “drug use, or possession, or trafficking, or sale, or manufacturing,” Recto said. “That’s more than six Araneta Coliseums-full of mostly alleged shabu sellers or users.”
“Just for comparison, the total BJMP inmate population in 2013 was 73,282, in 2011 it was 67,149. Ngayon, violations pa lang ng RA 9165, halos 98,000 na ang nakakulong. By the way, ‘yang 98,000 by this time ay lampas 100,000 na,” Recto said.
Recto said most of “RA 9165” detainees were male (83,281) or between the ages of 22 and 39 (56,469). Women detained for narcotic violations totalled 13,956, including 63 girls below 17 years of age.
At the other end of the age spectrum are “senior inmates”, with 1,110 of them, including 224 women, standing trial for drug offenses.
Recto said government should brace for a steep climb in the BJMP population due to the government’s relentless anti-drugs campaign.
“From January to June, ang nahuli ng pulis dahil sa RA 9165 ay 127,760. Ngunit ang monthly take-in ng BJMP ay 8,000 lang. Ibig sabihin, marami pa ang nasa pipeline. Dahil marami ang nahuli at mabagal ang korte, clogged na ang sistema. Marami sa mga police holding cells ay naghihintay ng transfer to BJMP.”
Under the country’s “penal division of labor”, the BJMP runs jails that holds detainees awaiting or undergoing trial, or those who have been sentenced to not more than three years in jail.
“Imagine, out of 142,000 BJMP inmates, 2,400 lang ang sentensyado. Yung 140,000 hini-hear pa ang kaso, o naghihintay ng sentensya, ang marami walang pampyansa. Yung iba dyan ang itinagal sa loob ay lampas pa ng maximum na years of sentence,” Recto said.
As a result of the surge in its inmate population, BJMP jails have registered a 600 percent congestion rate.
“The total national cell space of 97,789 square meters is ideal for 20,793 inmates, ngayon parang corned beef na siniksik doon ang 142,000 plus na preso,” Recto said.
“Sa report ng BJMP, mayroong mga jails na 3,590 percent, 2,603 percent, 2,494 percent congestion rate. Ibig sabihin, imbis na apat lang na preso ang kasya, 159 ang patayong natutulog sa 20 square meters na selda, tulad doon sa isang jail,” Recto said.
BJMP has a budget of P11.63 billion for 2017, and a proposed budget of P14.29 billion for 2018.
“Mahirap mag-base ng funding on a certain assumption sa bilang ng preso kasi siguradong ma-o-overrun sa dami ng paparating,” he said.
“Sa pagkain na lang, the per day allowance is P60, based on preso tipid meals na ‘yan. Ma-off lang ng 5,000 ang estimate mo, deficit ka ng 300,000 a day, o P109.5 million a year,” he said.
Recto said the congestion rate should prod government to initiate reforms in the country’s penal and criminal justice system “so that there will be fast trials, and minimum court hearing postponements.”
“If we won’t do it, harsh jail conditions could make them hardened criminals, trained in jails that serve as masteral schools for a career in crime,” Recto warned.