- Title: Philippine president's drug war sends thousands of suspects to overpacked jails
- Date: 8th November 2016
- Summary: MANILA, PHILIPPINES (OCTOBER 18, 2016) (REUTERS) SIREN BEING HEARD INSIDE PRISON COMPOUND VARIOUS OF POLICE OFFICER SPEAKING TO INMATES VARIOUS OF POLICE OFFICER INSPECTING INMATES IN COURTYARD VARIOUS OF INMATES HEADING INSIDE PRISON QUARTERS VARIOUS OF INMATES INSIDE LIVING QUARTERS POLICE OFFICER SPEAKING TO INMATE SUSPECTED DRUG USER'S FACE COVERED WITH MASK INMATES SITTING ON FLOOR PRESIDENT RODRIGO DUTERTE BAND ON INMATE'S WRIST MANILA, PHILIPPINES (OCTOBER 19, 2016) (REUTERS) EXTERIOR OF QUEZON CITY JAIL INMATES STANDING NEAR ENTRANCE WORDS ON STEPS READING (English): "WELCOME TO HELL" JOURNALIST INTERVIEWING INMATE LONG ABUHAM ABUHAM'S TATTOOS (SOUNDBITE) (Filipino) INMATE, LONG ABUHAM, SAYING: "I feel much safer here than outside because all of the people involved in drugs are being killed outside, so it's better to stay here inside."
- Embargoed: 23rd November 2016 03:46
- Keywords: Rodrigo Duterte drugs inmates jail
- Location: MANILA, PHILIPPINES
- City: MANILA, PHILIPPINES
- Country: Philippines
- Topics: Crime/Law/Justice,Crime
- Reuters ID: LVA00157L2H51
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Philippine President Rodrigo Duterte's crackdown on illegal drugs has seen a surge of suspects arrested, worsening the problem on backlogs in the country's penitentiary system.
More than 20,000 people have been arrested since Duterte took power three months ago and are currently detained at local district jails around the Philippines, the National Police reported.
Quezon City Jail was built to hold 800 inmates but is now home to over 3,400 - far too many for its cell area, which is roughly equivalent to three basketball courts.
Two thirds of the inmates are inside on drug-related offences, according to data maintained by the prison.
Inmates awaiting trial for drug charges pack into Quezon City Jail, so overcrowded that they must sleep in halls and stairwells, and share each toilet with 150 other men.
"There was a remarkable increase in jail population (since Duterte was elected), which is a big challenge for us because in terms of security, and in terms of health status of the inmates. Inmates gets sick because they do not get to sleep comfortably at night. Those other inmates who can't be accommodated inside the cell they just sleep here in the courtyard of the facility," jail officer, Lucila Abarca who has been working there for 11 years, said.
But in spite of the conditions, Long Abuham, an inmate charged for peddling drugs, said he would rather be in jail than out on the streets.
"I feel much safer here than outside, because all of the people involved in drugs are being killed outside, so it's better to stay here inside," he said.
Nearly 2,300 drug users and dealers have been killed in police operations or by suspected vigilantes since Duterte took office on June 30, according to the Philippines police.
At least 2,000 inmates are inside Quezon City Jail on bailable offences, according to prison statistics, but most are too poor to pay the bond.
Each morning at 8 a.m., many inmates crowd around the basketball court to sing the national anthem and take part in a short aerobic exercise.
Inmates are encouraged to be as active as possible during the day, Abarca said. But, inmates told a Reuters reporter touring the prison that many men catch up on sleep during the day in the space left by cellmates who exercise, pray in the chapel or form long lines for one of 24 toilets.
It was natural that the government's "aggressive campaign against criminality and drugs" would boost the jail population, said Jesus Hinlo, Undersecretary for Public Safety at the Department of the Interior and Local Government, which is in charge of Quezon City Jail.
He said the solution was to build new and bigger jails, adding that a lack of funds made this a challenge.
Philippine jails are Asia's most congested, with an occupancy level of 316 percent, according to the Institute for Criminal Policy Research (ICPR) at Birkbeck, University of London.
Globally, the ICPR ranks the Philippines third in prison occupancy levels, behind only Haiti and Benin.
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