Prison administration in the Philippines has been confronted with several challenges and the problems obtaining in it is not isolated in the world. A determination of issues, problems, pain points and ordeals from different countries indicate almost a similar pattern of administrative and organizational suffering. Understanding how correctional challenges have been remedied by some countries inspires not only political maturity but also public service development. Let us take note of the following:
A large number of countries, including Austria, China, Finland, Japan, Mauritius, Mexico,
New Zealand, South Africa and the United Kingdom, indicated that their national legislation on the treatment of prisoners was based, or had been greatly influenced by the UN Standard Minimum Rules in the Treatment of Prisoners. However, persistent problems in the application of national provisions were mainly due to chronic overcrowding in many prisons and insufficient prison infrastructures.
Among the national good practices highlighted in most studies, Argentina reported that overcrowding in the Federal Prison Service was successfully overcome by the end of 2007 through the development of space allocations parameters, taking into account the indications of the International Committee of the Red Cross, and better distribution of the prisoners.
Austria was devoting particular attention to the possibility for prisoners to work and reported about 50 different categories of work in its prisons. Belgium had introduced regular family visits for all prisoners, with special emphasis on strengthening the parental bonds with their children. In Brazil, a Public Defender provided prisoners with full and free legal assistance and also bore the responsibility to regulate the enforcement of the sentence.
Canada referred to the implementation of a new model of training in community supervision
(Strategic Initiative in Community Supervision). Day reporting centres were developed in 2008 to
provide services to offenders placed under community supervision and to ensure their accountability taking into account their risk level.
Chile had introduced the “11 measures to restore dignity” addressing various prisoners’ basic needs, such as living conditions, hours spent outside the cell, spiritual assistance, as well as improving care and health service in emergency situations in prisons.”
Furthermore, there were reports submitted to UN highlighting to a certain degree their commitment and adherence to human rights. Note the following:
China reported on its measures to prevent torture. Ecuador illustrated its “Modelo de Atención
Integral” for persons deprived of their liberty, with the objective of improving the quality of life in the centres for social rehabilitation and to enhance the individual capacity of each person deprived of his/her liberty to reintegrate into society. Estonia referred to the Drug Rehabilitation Unit in Tartu Prisons and the cooperation with the non-governmental organization Convictus Estonia for group work activities on drug misuse and HIV/AIDS. In particular, the practice of HIV testing and the medical aid available to positive patients in prison settings earned the Tartu Prison the Best Practice Award of the World Health Organization in 2003.
Germany had an enhanced programme of e-learning in prisons, which proved highly beneficial to the disproportionately large number of prisoners with educational shortcomings, particularly as it
allowed an individual pace of learning. In Guatemala older prisoners were properly identified and
registered with a view to providing them with special care responding to their health requirements.
In Israel, in 2007 the Supreme Court declared that the State must provide a bed to every prisoner heldin an Israeli prison. In its decision, the Court stated that the right to sleep on a bed is a minimum standard of living and dignity.
Italy reported on a pilot project for offenders between 18 and 34 years of age, based on a voluntary commitment to undertake defined educational and work activities and to respect internal rules. The project (Progetto Giovani) was open to low-risk first offenders and was aiming at their social reintegration. Lebanon indicated that efforts were being made to eradicate illiteracy among prisoners and that it was possible to pursue higher studies in prison.
In South Africa, the Department of Correctional Services had implemented a multi-pronged strategy against prison overcrowding, involving, inter alia, improved use of conversion of sentence to alternatives, enhancing community correctional supervision and encouraging national debate about reasons for incarceration as a sentence”.
It is unfortunate that the Philippines has not submitted its report on how it fared in the pursuit of SMR principles. There were legislative attempts to redefine prison service through a law on modernizing its system. It is still on the level of resolution and as yet to progress into a draft bill yet. Other countries have made a headway towards this end.
Accordingly,Switzerland had recently revised its Penal Code, including new provisions according to which work in prison and the participation in training courses are considered to be of equal value for the purpose of rehabilitation. The United Kingdom emphasized its programmes for the prevention of suicide, self-harm management, as well as violence reduction.
The Philippine prison setting however inactive in the international forum is not in way distressing from how it should project its institutional posture. There are two agencies involved in corrections, the Bureau of Corrections under the Department of Justice and the jail system under the Department of Interior and Local Government. Even if at times these agencies are functioning under strict political lines or with different departmental mandate, there are non-government agencies which are consistent in its presence. There is the International Committee of Red Cross. It literally reviews, conducts studies and assists all correctional facilities in the country. And of course there is the academe and the private sector involved in formulating a template in the proper managements of correctional resources. On the whole, the lessons learned from practices all over the world could provide a clear direction in developing further or advancing the cause of humanity in Philippine correctional administration.