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De Lima files bill calling for comprehensive prison reforms


By Hannah Torregoza

Detained Sen.Leila de Lima has sought passage of a measure that would establish prison reform and restorative justice system in the country.

In filing Senate Bill No. 2130 or the proposed “Prison Reform Act of 2018”, de Lima said it is necessary to make the country’s prison system more effective in the administration of justice while at the same time preparing the inmates toward effective reintegration within the society.

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)

Senator Leila de Lima (REUTERS/Romeo Ranoco / MANILA BULLETIN)

De Lima said the main objective of the bill is to restore human dignity even if the offender is found guilty of committing a crime.

“This Act recognizes that imprisonment is not a lifetime chain that would eternally bind prisoners in the dark,” de Lima said of her bill.

“(It will help) persons deprived of liberty (PDLs) prepare for their eventual release back in the society,” said the senator.

De Lima, who is currently detained at the Philippine National Police (PNP) custodial center while facing drug charges, said the detention of individuals found guilty of committing a crime should provide opportunities for correction and reform to help them restore human dignity and reduce their tendencies to break the law anew.

“To reintegrate them efficiently and peacefully into the community where they once belonged, a system of rehabilitation is vital,” de Lima said.

“Putting them under the hands of law after all, is not the end of their lives but a step towards the rebuilding of a better one, where they can be useful members thereof,” she said.

Certain minimum rights for every PDL are underscored and guaranteed, the former justice secretary explained.

The measure, she said, seeks the creation of an intervention office who would craft programs aimed at helping detainees gain skills that would be helpful in their eventual reintegration back into the community.

These programs include those that are designed to give them basic and advance education or provide them with technical skills, utilize their existing skills and capabilities toward administration of the penal facility or community service, or provide them continuous counseling services to encourage self-improvement.

The bill also proposes the creation of revenue-generating programs for detainees by a Prison Revenue Office in every penal institution to encourage interested prisoners to participate in the Prisoner Employment Program (PEP).

“Through the PEP, qualified prisoners will be provided with opportunities to engage in meaningful and sustainable paid employment, work experience and vocational training inside the penal institution,” she said.

The bill also seeks to establish a more responsive and effective correctional system by introducing rehabilitation and intervention programs based on a continuing assessment system of the inmates that will be formulated from internationally accepted methods, taking into consideration the factors that play vital roles that led the inmates to commit crimes and those that minimize the chances of them committing new ones, shifting from the present sentence-based classification.

Under the bill, de Lima also pushed for the establishment of a Job Assistance Office to handle the Postprison Employment Program that will raise awareness regarding available job opportunities which a prisoner may apply for upon release.

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