Privatize Philippine prisons, lawmaker suggests

Posted at 08/27/12 9:24 PM

MANILA, Philippines - Congress should look into handing over Philippine prisons to the private sector to improve the country's penal system, a partylist lawmaker said Monday.

Partylist Rep. Arnel Ty, in a press statement, said prisons can be outsourced to private companies under the supervision of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor).

He said lawmakers should look into adopting the American model of enlisting the private sector's help to build, operate and maintain the country's future prisons.

"Our severely overcrowded prisons are full of holes, and have become extremely prone to potential rioting, hostage-taking and other highly volatile situations," Ty said.

He mentioned two recent cases -- the alleged abduction of murder convict Rolito Go and the escape of a maximum security inmate from the New Bilibid Prisons (NBP).

"We have to find ways to decongest and modernize our prisons, and improve the living conditions of inmates," said Ty, a member of the House committee on public order and safety.

He said studies show that overcrowded prisons cause heightened frustration, anger and tension among inmates that lead to conflicts and violence.

Ty said at least 2 NBP inmates have been killed in violent incidents.

He said in the US, tens of thousands of inmates are now being housed and managed by private companies that take part in bidding for contracts at the federal, state and municipal levels.

He cited the Nashville, Tennessee-based Corrections Corporation of America, which owns, operates and manages 66 prison facilities with more than 70,000 inmates.

"In America and other countries, private contractors realize cost-savings because they rely more heavily on high-technology security solutions, and less on staff. They use the savings to improve meals and education services for inmates," Ty said.

The NBP and 6 other prisons under the BuCor currently house 36,426 inmates who are being watched by 1,601 guards.

"We may have to eventually transfer to private firms the performance of detention, correction and rehabilitation services. This may be one of the ways to sustain a cost-efficient penal system in the future," Ty said.

Ty filed House Resolution 1380 in June last year that recommended possible prison system reforms, including allowing private companies to build and run correctional facilities under the Public-Private Partnership (PPP) strategy.

"The overcrowding of our correction facilities is bound to worsen as their populations grow. Sadly, government does not have the wherewithal to construct and maintain our next generation prisons. Thus, we may have to consider bringing in private capital," Ty said.