Press Release
June 8, 2011

Sotto bats for jail decentralization

The prison caper of former Batangas governor Antonio Leviste and persistent reports of extra-judicial killings and drug trade at the National Bilibid Prison have boosted arguments to decentralize its jail management, Senate majority leader Vicente C. Sotto III said.

As it is overpopulated with inmates thrice its capacity, Sotto said this has led to the safety, health and regulations being compromised at the National Bilibid Prisons.

One possible solution to decongest the National Penitentiary is to build regional jails to accommodate inmates from the different provinces, the senator said.

Jail officials said that the 400-hectare penal facility is 200 percent overpopulated, with one jail warden in charge for every 81 prisoners.

The poor security, coupled with overcrowding has led to riots, extra-judicial killings and illegal activities being left unchecked inside the facility.

Moreover, diseases stalk the inmates because of poor conditions. The huge number of prisoners has turned the National Bilibid into a virtual petri dish for the spread of diseases.

In pushing for the regional decentralization of jail system, Sotto said this will result to better prison management as well as more humane treatment and conditions for the inmates.

"It is about time to consider alternative solutions since most programs are now tainted with mismanagement and corruption," Sotto said.

Persistent talks of special treatment being provided to moneyed and influential prisoners have undermined accountability, with jail officials preferring to look the other way around.

The latest was the "disappearing" stunts of Leviste from the National Penitentiary which was recently exposed.

Leviste was caught having illegal trips outside of the Bilibid Prisons, indicating the lax security. The scandal has led to the resignation of Bureau of Corrections chief Ernesto Diokno.

Sotto, who believes in the principle of restorative justice in rehabilitating prisoners, argued that the overcrowding of inmates at the National Bililid has led to inhumane conditions, lax security, and special treatment to favoured inmates that undermine the judicial system.

The principle of restorative justice implies that the offender has the capacity to be rehabilitated through proper interventions and training.

The creation of regional jails hopefully can address the various concerns, Sotto pointed out.

The establishment and operation of regional jails can be funded through the sale of the National Bilibid Prisons, he added.

"Once the regional jails are created, then the government can consider selling the National Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa. The sale of which can be used for programs for inmates nationwide," Sotto said.

"There is a need to overhaul the entire prison system. It has been begging for change," he added.

Sotto has earlier filed a resolution seeking the creation of regional jails for drug offenders.

He pointed out that 7 out of 10 inmates in city jails and in the National Penitentiary are drug offenders. Sotto is former chair of the Dangerous Drug Board. He is also presently the rules committee chair in the Senate.

He said the creation of regional jails will not only decongest Bilibid but also allow the inmates to be closer with their families.

This hopefully would hasten the rehabilitation of the inmate, facilitate their rejoining society and reduce overpopulation in jails.

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