War on crime packs prisons
MARIO Dimaculangan shares a toilet with 130 other inmates in one of the Philippines’ most overcrowded jails, and conditions are getting worse as police wage an unprecedented war on crime.
Security forces have killed hundreds of people and detained thousands more in just one month as they have followed the orders of President Rodrigo Duterte, who has said the top priority at the start of his six-year term is to eliminate drugs in society.
Those detained appear doomed for lengthy stints in an underfunded and overwhelmed penal system, like in the Quezon City Jail where Mr Dimaculangan has wallowed for 14 years while his trial over murder and robbery charges have dragged on.
“Many go crazy. They cannot think straight. It’s so crowded. Just the slightest of movements and you bump into something or someone,” Mr Dimaculangan said in one of the jail’s packed hallways.
There are 3800 inmates at the jail, which was built six decades ago to house 800, and they engage in a relentless contest for space.
Men take turns to sleep on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court, the steps of staircases, underneath beds and hammocks made out of old blankets. Even then, bodies are packed like sardines in a can, with inmates unable to fully stretch out.
When it rains, the conditions are even worse as inmates cannot sleep on the basketball court, which is surrounded by the cells in decaying concrete buildings.
The cash-strapped government has a daily budget of just 50 pesos (US$1.10) for food and 5 pesos for medicine per inmate, although with the bulk buying of supplies, Quezon City Jail detainees have a sustainable diet of soup, vegetables and meat.
Pails of water are used to flush the scarce toilets, with the stench compounded by the rotting rubbish in a nearby canal.
The jail’s management does what it can to make life bearable, such as running dance competitions and other rehabilitation activities.
Inmates also say there have been improvements in recent years, particularly with the food and more rehabilitation programs. –
Inmates sleep on the steps of a ladder inside the Quezon City Jail in Manila on July which was built six decades ago to house 800.
21. There are 3800 inmates at the jail,