By Chito A. Chavez
With a staggering jail congestion problem in the country, the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) has admitted that its crowded facilities are the major cause of the spread of infectious diseases among inmates.
BJMP spokesman Senior Inspector Xavier Solda said most of the inmates in the BJMP-controlled jail facilities are suffering from skin and lung ailments.
He noted that the Manila City Jail is the most congested with a 601.91 percent congestion rate.
Solda explained that ideally, the Manila City Jail could only accommodate 800 inmates. Currently, there are about 5,400 to 5,600 which he blamed on the snail-paced resolution of the cases in trial courts.
He added that the intensified anti-crime operations have also aggravated congestion in jails as inmates coming in outnumber those who are being released.
BJMP chief Director Deogracias Tapayan said that records from January to February 2018 showed a 40-percent rise in medical consultations from the same period last year due to overpopulation in the jails.
Diseases recorded during the January to February, 2018 period include upper respiratory tract infection, hypertension, allergic rhinitis, influenza, boils (pigsa), irritant contact dermatitis, scabies, acute gastroenteritis, asthma or bronchial asthma, and heat rash.
Solda said that in February, 2018, the population of inmates in district, city, municipal jails, female dorms, special intensive care areas, and infirmaries under their jurisdiction is at 145,476.
But the BJMP said they are prepared to handle inmates falling ill during the dry season.
Facility inspections were already conducted last December, which included the checking of ventilation and water lines, and the purchase of medical supplies.
Solda added that the BJMP has constantly been in contact with the Bureau of Fire Protection (BFP) for the possible water interruption in the BJMP controlled jails.
Also, Solda said the BJMP has listed the names of the prisoners with illnesses, and monitored the conditions of pregnant and the elderly inmates.
Inmates with tuberculosis are also being monitored and placed in isolation areas to at least minimize the spread of the disease.
The agency, with appropriate court orders, has also transferred prisoners to the Quezon City Jail annex and Manila City Jail annex as part of their solution to the congestion.
Solda said volunteer doctors from public facilities and NGOs have offered help to address the inmates’ health problems.