Congested prisons? Robin’s solution is to ‘regionalize’ them

Published August 8, 2022, 9:40 AM

by Mario Casayuran

Senator Robinhood “Robin” Padilla has filed a bill for the ‘”regionalization” of penal farms to address the issue of congestion in the New Bilibid Prison (NBP) and to make sure persons serving final judgment receive visits from their families.

Padilla filed Senate Bill (SB) 235, which seeks to set up penitentiary systems in at least 10 regions – Regions I, II, III, V, VI, VIII, IX, X, XII at XIII.

In the past 18th Congress, then-Senate Minority Leader Franklin Drilon also sought to decongest the NBP through the construction of prisons in several regions.

“Ultimately, this bill seeks to create additional regional penal institutions not only to address the severe congestion in the country’s jails and prisons, but to also ensure the welfare of persons serving final judgment as they await their reintegration to society,” he said in his bill.

“While (congestion) remains a pressing issue, this representation wants to focus more on the impact of far incarceration of persons serving final judgment from their families,” he explained.

Padilla noted there are only seven penitentiary institutions nationwide: the NBP in Muntinlupa City; Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong City; Iwahig Penal Colony in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan; San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City; Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro; Leyte Regional Prison; and Davao Prison and Penal Farm.

Because of the limited number of penitentiary institutions nationwide, Padilla lamented visits among families “become a mere privilege” due to the costs of transportation and accommodation.

“Recognizing therefore the paramount role of the family in providing emotional, moral and psychosocial support to every person serving final judgment, this measure is being proposed to widen the opportunities of families and other support groups to pay a visit to their loved ones inside the penitentiaries,” he pointed out.

Under the bill, the penal farms to be established will have a “standard and uniform design” for the prison, reformation, and administrative facilities.

The bill mandates the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) to create an infrastructure plan, coordinate the construction of the regional penitentiaries, and carry out the decentralization and transfer of prisoners to the regional penal farms.