Inmates freed from congestion in new Bohol jail

MANILA, Philippines – Inmates in a Bohol jail enjoy one freedom that fellow prisoners in Metro Manila and other urban centers are pining for: freedom from congested jail cells.

On Tuesday, June 20, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) opened a new facility at the Ubay District Jail in Ubay, Bohol, that addresses its problem of overcrowding.

Until the construction of the P4-million facility in Barangay Camabugan, the jail's inmate population was 6 times its capacity.

The old facility used to pack 168 inmates into a space meant to hold only 23 people. The new facility has capacity for around 200 inmates.

Jail Director Serafin Barretto Jr said that on top of solving the congestion problem, the new jail provides a spacious area for recreation and rehabilitation activities, far different from the old, dilapidated facility.

"At the former jail, our inmates can't easily have sunning activities due to the limited area in the facility. We are happy that we were able to provide them not just an area for sunning but also for other recreational activities," said Barretto.

Congested jails

The BJMP announced the new Bohol jail after the Commission on Audit released a report that the BJMP registered a nationwide congestion rate of 511% or 5 times more than its capacity amid the government's war on drugs.

In the Ubay jail, 7 of 10 inmates were detained for drug charges.

Barretto admitted difficulties in building new facilities, pointing out that these would take time and a huge amount of money.

For the meantime, he said, they will look at ways to lessen the impact of congestion on their inmates.

"We ensure that they are being fed the right amount of food within the budget given to them while our roving medical staff is monitoring their health condition," Barretto added.

In 2017, the BJMP received a budget of P1.709 billion for the construction of new facilities.

For 2018, the BJMP proposed a P9.6-billion budget for infrastructure projects which include the construction of 91 new jail buildings, 29 projects for security enhancement including perimeter fences, and 13 projects for kitchens, an administrative building, and water supply improvement.

According to BJMP Director for Logistics Jail Senior Superintendent Luisito Muñoz, this year's projects are already in full swing to meet the target dates of completion. –

Rambo Talabong

Rambo Talabong covers security, crime, and the city of Manila for Rappler. He was chosen as a Jaime V. Ongpin Fellow in 2019 for his reporting on President Rodrigo Duterte’s war on drugs.