Senate minority leader Alan Peter Cayetano took the unconventional path by celebrating his birthday with the inmates of the Metro Manila District Jail and the Taguig City District Jail in Camp BagongDiwa, Taguig City.
As the minority leader and his staff spearheaded a‘Friends Beyond Walls’ outreach program with Taguig City and BJMP, he urged the government to strengthen the rehabilitative function of the Philippine correctional system by pushing for the establishment of an institutionalized education program for inmates.
The senator pointed out that the solution to the problem of congestion in various correctional facilities in the country is to ensure that released inmates do not come back as repeat offenders by reforming them into productive and relevant citizens of society during their time in jail.
As of August 2011, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) lists a total of 66,740 inmates nationwide. Data from the agency also reveals a nationwide congestion rate 156% with the Quezon City jail being the most congested in the National Capital Region (NCR).
He lamented the current absence of lack of academic and skills training for inmates in the country that greatly contribute to the increase in rate of recidivism among inmates. The National Statistics Coordination Board (NSCB) recorded a 10% increase of re-offenders in 2008 compared to 4% in the previous year.
He compared this to a 2001 United States study that showed that education programs help inmates avoid committing crimes in the future leading to a 13% reduction in re-arrests, a 21% reduction in reconvictions and a 29% reduction in re-incarcerations.
“The problem that besets communities is that once the inmates have served their time and are freed, they become a burden to society due to their lack of employable skills. So to prevent this, we must seek to rehabilitate them through education while they are still in jail,” he said.
Cayetano said he will soon file a bill entitled “Education for Inmates Act” for this purpose.
“Providing education to criminal offenders is the key element for their effective rehabilitation. The aim of the bill is simple: provide an effective educational mechanism to help inmates regain their self-esteem, strengthen their moral values and improve their chances for a better life after prison,” he said.
However, Cayetano stressed that most effective way to aid the rehabilitation of inmates is to address the root of the problem of lawlessness and social injustice in the country.
“While the ‘big fishes’ who continue to steal millions worth of honest taxpayers’ money roam around in subdivisions, the ‘small fishes’ who committed crimes due to poverty suffer in jail,” he said.
He urged law enforcement officials nationwide to prove their commitment to ensuring that justice is upheld in the country.
“Go after the big fish. Ipakita natin sa mga nakakulong dito na maski singko sentimos man o limang bilyon ang ninakaw, pareho ang hustisya sa Pilipinas,” he said.