Philippines frees nearly 22,000 inmates to prevent COVID-19 infections in crowded jails

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MANILA, July 22 (Xinhua) — The Philippines has released a total of 21,858 inmates as part of its efforts to decongest the country’s crowded jails and prevent the contamination of COVID-19 among prisoners, Interior and Local Government Secretary Eduardo Ano said on Wednesday.

Ano said the 21,858 so-called persons deprived of liberty were released from March 17 to July 13 from 470 jail facilities across the country supervised by the Bureau of Jail and Management and Penology (BJMP).

Of the total number, Ano said 5,102 were paralegal releases through bail, plea-bargaining, parole or probation, while 6,756 were freed through acquittal or served sentence.

Among the inmates who were set freed, Ano said 409 were elderly, 621 were sick, and 24 were pregnant.

Ano said in a statement that his department is also taking concrete measures to decongest jails such as improving and putting up more jail facilities and fast-tracking the court hearings of the persons deprived of liberty.

As of July 15, Ano said the BJMP has recorded 180 active COVID-19 cases. These cases include 126 prisoners and 54 jail personnel. He added that 895 inmates and jail staff have recovered while 11 died from the disease.

Ano said the BJMP is currently conducting targeted testing across 51 jail facilities and three BJMP offices as part of the efforts to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) chief Gerald Bantag on Monday said 21 prisoners of the New Bilibid Prison in Mutinlupa City have died from COVID-19 since March. Bantag said five prisoners are currently being isolated in the jail’s quarantine facility.

The Supreme Court has slashed bail for indigent detainees for offenses with a penalty of six months and one day to 20 years in a bid to decongest jails and prevent coronavirus transmission. Priority is given to inmates whose age and underlying medical conditions make them vulnerable to COVID-19.

The Philippines now has 70,764 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 23,281 recoveries and 1,837 deaths. Enditem

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