Infamous of being one of the most crowded correction facilities, Philippine prisons is currently pounded by COVID-19, heightening fears that these jails will emerge as Southeast Asia's epicenter of coronavirus.
At least 300 coronavirus cases among inmates have been confirmed, and most of them came from the detention facilities in southern part of the Philippines, Cebu.
In addition, four detainees have already added to the country's death toll on COVID-19 and currently dozens of people working inside the prisons have also tested positive with coronavirus.
Associate Supreme Court Justice, Mario Victor Leonen shared on his Saturday interview that about 10,000 inmates would be released in an attempt to avoid the spread of coronavirus in the country's detention facilities.
Following a directive issued by the Supreme Court, they will release those who were being held ahead of trial for being not able to afford bail, added also on the list are certain elderly and ailing prisoners and those whose sentence are only six months or below.
Due to a nationwide crackdown on illegal narcotics starting from 2016, the 220,000 arrested and now prisons added to the enormous number making the Philippines the country with the highest jail occupancy in the entire world.
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Moreover, after the implementation of lockdown across the Philippine archipelago since March, more than thousands of people have been temporarily held for violating quarantine protocols meant to slow down the spread of coronavirus as part of precautionary measures.
Just Like Waiting for a Death Sentence
With a prison congestion rate at 534 percent, according to BJMP or Bureau of Jail Management and Penology. Global data suggests that an estimated of 215,000 prisons are held inside detention facilities meant to house only about 41,000, and about three-quarters of them are being held awaiting for their trials.
To avoid more infections, on March 20, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) established a total lockdown in its entire 400 plus facilities.
In an interview with the 61-year-old inmate, he shared that he feels helpless, that they are just like waiting to die behind the bars.
He also added that he feels like they are just waiting for the virus to come for them, while another inmate could be heard coughing in the background.
The identity of the 61-year-old inmate who spoke about the current condition behind the bars were not revealed, but he had been transferred to a different room because of his delicate condition due to his age, and the series of fevers and colds that he has undergone since being arrested from the start of the year.
He also confessed that the cell meant for two where stays now is occupied by 11 inmates, but he shared that it is better than what they are used to, it is better than sleeping on the stairs, piled up on top of one another.
With face masks distributed to all detainees, still many say that it is uncomfortable to wear them because of poor ventilation in the facilities, and it is impossible to walk two steps without bumping into someone else, so overcrowding and poor sanitation inside the prisons highly increases the chance of an outbreak behind the bars.