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Manila urged to fix prison conditions

By Agence France Presse In Manila, Philippines | China Daily | Updated: 2016-08-05 08:03

Images of hellish conditions at an overcrowded Philippines jail triggered calls on Thursday from lawmakers and rights groups for swift reforms to the penal system which is under strain from an anti-drugs crackdown.

The Quezon City Jail, where thousands of inmates are forced to sleep on stairs or on cracked cement floors in unimaginable squalor, is an example of the crisis which is worsening under President Rodrigo Duterte's war on crime.

"It's an image straight out of Dante's Purgatory, a rights groups said, referring to the 13th Century Italian writer's description of the realm where souls await judgment.

"Hundreds of half-naked men sprawled on the pavement in the sweltering heat, desperately trying to sleep amid the cramped chaos ... It's an actual snapshot of horrific overcrowding in the Philippines' jails."

The situation at Quezon City Jail is by no means isolated, with many other Filipino jails also failing to meet minimum United Nations standards for nutrition and sanitation.

Duterte was elected by a landslide in May, largely on a pledge to clean up the streets by killing tens of thousands of criminals. Police say 402 drug suspects have been gunned down in the past month.

Thousands more have been detained, doomed for lengthy stints in underfunded and overwhelmed jails.

Describing the images as "terrible", outspoken lawmaker Leila de Lima said she would file a resolution in the upper house Senate calling for a review of the state of detention facilities.

"You can never hope to really implement any worthy programs to reform inmates if you have such decrepit, overcrowded facilities," she said.

The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology told AFP that 8.0 billion pesos ($170 million) was needed to relieve the situation at prisons holding nearly five times their intended capacity.

Even before Duterte's election, the Philippines penal system was ranked as the third most congested in the world, according to the University of London's Institute for Criminal Policy Research.


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