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COVID-19 WATCH

CHR calls for urgent decongestion of prison cells

Gabbie Parlade

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The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology has noted that "jail decongestion at this point in time is an immediate and effective response to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. (AFP)

The Commission on Human Rights (CHR) on Tuesday urged the government for immediate action on the rise of coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19) positive cases among detainees in prison cells.

In a statement, CHR spokesman Atty. Jacqueline de Guia said that due to the congestion of cells, the increasing number of COVID-19 poses a threat on the transmission of the virus.

“The plight of PDL (persons deprived of liberty) need to be guaranteed considering their vulnerability to the infectious disease due to congestion, jail conditions and the impossibility of enforcing physical distancing in most places of detention,” she said.

De Guia said that the plan of the Supreme Court to release qualified PDL must be done immediately to contain any more probable cases.

The guidelines for qualification include the elderly, those with existing conditions, first-time offenders, those detained for non-violent and bailable offenses but have no means to post bail and PDLs with no history of jumping bail.

“It is hoped that this will be implemented with expediency for decongestion to begin,” said De Guia, adding that aside from measures to decongest prison cells, there must also be regular disinfection and access to water and proper hygiene products.

“PDL have the same inherent dignity and right to health as the general population. They are in detention so they may be reformed as they serve their sentence and may eventually reintegrate to society. Their health and life should not be imperiled while in custody,” she said.

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