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COVID-19 recovery plan must include construction of new prison facilities – Bro. Eddie Villanueva

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House Deputy Speaker Bro. Eddie Villanueva urged the national government to include the construction and expansion of prisons in its coronavirus recovery plan to address the awful congestion in these facilities.

Villanueva, representative of CIBAC Party-list and founder of Jesus is Lord Church (JIL), made the remarks following the reported confirmed cases of coronavirus infections in Quezon City and Cebu City jails last week amid overcrowding in these facilities where social distancing is hard, if not impossible, to be implemented.

According to Villanueva, there must be “a sizeable budgetary allocation” in the stimulus packages introduce for post-pandemic period which “will significantly improve” the conditions prisons and other detention facilities in the country.

“Especially that a ‘new normal’ conduct of living which includes social distancing and strict adherence to proper hygiene is expected to be observed at all facets of communal living, uncrowding our prison facilities is a must to make sure our jails will not be hotbeds or epicenter of infections in its communities,” she said.

He noted that as of 2019, penal facilities under either the Bureau of Corrections (BUCor) or the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have an average congestion rate of not less than 300 percent.

Villanueva stressed that now the country is in the midst of a pandemic where social distancing is key to survival, this problem of jail congestion deserves no less than the serious attention and funding plan of the government.

The JIL founder said that though they are offenders of laws and must be penalized according to our justice system, life for prisoners and inmates is not yet over and there is always the ever-present opportunity for change of life.

“They are deprived of liberty but they must not be denied of dignity and right to health, sanitation and humane environment… as long as they are alive, there is always a ray of hope for them to be recrafted as productive members of our society again,” he said.

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