War on crime packs pris­ons

The Myanmar Times - - World -

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. –

Photo: AFP

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,

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