Typhoon Haiyan hit Leyte Island in the Philippines on November 8, 2013 and killed more than 6,200 people. Not only did this natural disaster take down homes and evacuation centers but also broke down the main steel gate of Tacloban city jail.
This January 16, 2014, 182 inmates escaped from the Leyte provincial jail. To many, this large prison break seems like it would be an anomaly to a country’s criminal justice system. However, “dozens of jailbreaks occur in the Philippines each year due to lax security and dilapidated prisons”. Most of the escapees have been returned to the jail after this most recent break. Inmates claim that since the typhoon hit, the jail has neglected filthy conditions and are short on food. It is a concern that the prisons are being kept to international standards. Relief organizations like the International Committee of the Red Cross are providing support for the damaged jails. But, essential medical services, food, and shelter are hard to come by after the typhoon for even law abiding citizens.
The OHCHR (United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights) has set standard minimum rules for the treatment of prisoners. One example of these rules is subsection 10 which states that, “All accommodation provided for the use of prisoners and in particular all sleeping accommodation shall meet all requirements of health, due regard being paid to climatic conditions and particularly to cubic content of air, minimum floor space, lighting, heating, and ventilation.” Subsection 20(1) also provides that “Every prisoner shall be provided by the administration at the usual hours with food of nutritional value adequate for health and strength, of wholesome quality and well prepared and served.”
Can we condone this behavior of drug dealers, rapists, and murderers if prison conditions are as poor as claimed? Should people who have committed horrendous crimes be expected to live in unfit conditions? How will a country that is still recovering from a typhoon be able to raise money to improve their prisons and security? Shouldn’t funding be given to law abiding citizens first?