Our jails are ticking time bombs
It is a clear and undeniable fact that the current conditions in Philippine prisons are appalling, more so when you look at it from a public health perspective. Our dingy, overpopulated jail cells are the perfect breeding ground for infectious diseases. Through antigenic drifts and shifts aggravated by extreme close contact between the inmates, the next deadly viral epidemic might just originate from our overcrowded prisons.
Looking back 100 years ago, the deadliest recorded event in human history—the Spanish flu pandemic—occurred partly due to the cramped living quarters shared by soldiers during World War I. Infectious diseases thrive in densely packed populations.
When one factors in the substandard healthcare in Philippine correctional facilities, it is clear that the jails in our country—which, according to a recent Commission on Audit report, are overpopulated by a staggering 511 percent—are ticking time bombs. One should also note that prisons are open, not closed, societies. There are always people coming and going: wardens, visitors, and even the prisoners themselves. A novel viral strain that develops inside prison walls can easily be transmitted to the population at large.
Not only are the conditions in Philippine jails inhumane and unethical, they are also grave threats to public safety. The state should realize its constitutional mandate to protect our health (Article II, Section 15) and immediately take a proactive stance against the ever-worsening conditions in our country’s prisons—for our sake, and for the prisoners’ sake.
NICOLAS CZAR B. ANTONIO, [email protected]
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