Press Release
July 6, 2019

De Lima files wide-ranging reform bills on PH's prison and correctional systems

Senator Leila M. de Lima has filed two measures which seek to introduce comprehensive reforms in the country's prison and correctional systems, including upgrading its current facilities and improving the reformatory programs for the inmates.

De Lima, a human rights and social justice champion, filed Senate Bill (SB) Nos. 180 and 181, to be known as "Prison Reform Act of 2019," and the "Unified Corrections and Jail Management System Act of 2019," respectively.

"It is vitally important to enact a law instituting wide-ranging reforms in our jails and correction system, a legislation that shall mandate the upgrade of our facilities, enhance professionalization of our jail and correction officers and employees, and legislate the standards of humane treatment of the inmates," she said.

SB No. 180 seeks to institutionalize prison reform and restorative justice in the country's correctional system to ensure the effective rehabilitation and reintegration of inmates while according full respect of their rights.

Under the proposed measure, the detention of individuals found guilty of committing a crime should provide opportunities for correction and reform to help them restore human dignity and reduce their tendencies to break the law anew.

"This bill recognizes that imprisonment is not a lifetime chain that would eternally bind prisoners in the dark. The State shall take steps towards reforming them by affording them assistance in seeking for jobs and housing once they are released back into society," De Lima pointed out.

Under the proposed measure, a Reception and Diagnostics Center shall be created within each penal facility tasked to set up a continuing assessment of inmates during their imprisonment and classify them based on their risks, needs or productivity.

It also seeks to establish an Intervention Office tasked to make "intervention programs" available to detainees to help them gain skills that would be helpful in their eventual reintegration back into the community.

These programs include those that are designed to give them basic and advance education or provide them with technical skills, utilize their existing skills and capabilities towards administration of the penal facility or community service, or provide them continuous counselling services to encourage self-improvement.

SB No. 181, on the other hand, seeks to unify corrections and management system by centralizing the management of all prisons and jails under a single government authority to be called National Commission on Corrections and Jail Management (NCCJM).

The NCCJM shall replace the Bureau of Corrections, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology, and all the provincial jail services tasked in safeguarding of detainees, the custody and reformation of prisoners, and the professionalization of all correctional personnel.

"Not only is the bill pushing for unification of the administration or management of prisons and jails, with integrated services and programs, it is also seeking to regionalize the facilities and correctional services. It is hoped that this will help decongest our detention centers and prisons," De Lima explained.

It may be recalled that in its 3rd Periodic Report in 2016, the UN Committee against Torture was alarmed over the congestion in the country's jails and prisons which it claimed do not meet minimum international standards and may qualify as ill-treatment or torture.

According to De Lima, the congestion in jails leads to a lot of other problems, such as jail disturbances, escapes, substandard living and working conditions, poor sanitation and hygiene-related or even infectious diseases.

News Latest News Feed