Inmates no more

“Nine months into his term, the Secretary released around 7,000 inmates under different modes.

Since the start of the Marcos administration, Justice Secretary Remulla’s focus has been on the Bureau of Corrections. He knew he would have his hands full with the issues, problems, and challenges that have long hounded the bureau. Even before assuming the post of Secretary, he had already visited Sablayan, Occidental Mindoro to inspect the BuCor property. Even then, his vision of a regional and decentralized prison system was evident.

However, the most magnanimous gesture of his sincere desire to make meaningful change in the bureau is seen in his continuous release of inmates. Every month, the Secretary makes his way to Bilibid for a short program where the bureau releases inmates. There the BuCor Director General, the Chief of the Public Attorney’s Office, and Secretary Remulla give their short messages to the inmates. Jokingly even, they tell the inmates that they never want to see their faces in Bilibid again.

On a more serious note, it is the constitutional right of persons not to be deprived of liberty a day more than they have to that is sought to be protected and enforced here. These convicted criminals had been deprived of liberty because they had violated laws. The penalties attached to their crimes try, as much as possible, to indicate the gravity of the act. The worse the crime, the worse the penalty. This is the state’s way of maintaining peace and order. However, the worst thing that could happen is to exacerbate a wrong with another wrong, that is, to violate the rights of these inmates.

Nine months into his term, the Secretary released around 7,000 inmates under different modes such as Good Conduct Time Allowance, parole, probation, and pardon. Every one of them is thankful for the second chance given to them — another crack at freedom.

All told, the Department has shifted its mindset from being a punitive corrections system to a more reformative one. Secretary Remulla’s vision for these inmates is to give them a chance at redemption, a way back into the community. As a result, he has activated several programs for the betterment of the inmates while they are detained at BuCor, as well as providing them with livelihood programs upon their release.

With this in mind, it is high time that we see the Bureau of Corrections as a stepping stone for most who have done wrong. With the right programs and projects, the inmates at Bilibid could be seen as productive members of society. With the right mindset and perspective, we must see them as equals who had made mistakes.

At the end of the day, the strong arm of justice must flex to deter and prevent crime. However, the compassionate heart of justice, full of hope and promise, must come in when necessary. Releasing those who have served their time and satisfactorily showed reformation is one way of serving compassionate justice.

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