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In Search for Redemption in Prison
By Venancio J. Tesoro, Penal Superintendent IV of the Bureau of Corrections
Published: 03/03/2014

Prison bars 713512 When we talk of prison reforms, we are not only contemplating on programs that would simply ensure the upkeep of prisoners, but also the need to impress the underlying disciplinary character of incarceration on top of security considerations. There is a compelling reason to build, organize and maintain facilities strictly to adhere to the principles of criminal justice administration in general and corrections in particular. If we are to consider this, we have a lot of assignments and considerations to accomplish as far as our correctional establishments are concerned.

First is the accommodation level. If there is a facility filled to the brim with a congestion rate up above the rooftop then there is deprivation of an air of rehabilitation for its wards. In effect, what is bred is a new species of offenders. If we are to believe reports that most of those who graduate from overcrowded detention houses turn out no longer as ordinary felons with pasts, but as hostile predators with potential for committing heinous crimes, then this is it already.

Second is how inmates are treated. If we have a community managed with suspicion, administered through coercive means as foremost consideration in dealing with its denizens, then prison officers are not only breeding sadism but propagating another type of offenders: the serial types.

Third is how requirements are attended to in the prison community. Inmates are a helpless lot when it comes to evaluating their conduct and institutional adjustments. More so in technically handling the computation of period vis a vis that which they have already served. If prison evaluators are indifferent, by way of negligence or plain incompetence, then another persona is introduced to a burdened inmate. He becomes not only hostile on authority but his hatred goes up to political leadership and it goes without saying, to government as a whole. This kind of inmate once released is easily absorbed in the mainstream of insurgency.

These three considerations virtually erase the quality of redemption the Constitution guarantees through the criminal justice administration. Retribution, the opposite of redemption, never has left the system notwithstanding policies, laws and enunciations to the contrary. Retribution defeats the very purpose of justice and overthrows the very principle of corrections. Retribution becomes the order of the day. We have congestion, maltreatment and an indifferent organization, and then we have retribution in full color.

Just what is redemption in prison really? It is saving the humanity or what is left in the offender and restoring humanity back to him. The prisoner, whatever his worth is a respected member of the State, with residual rights protected by law and is believed that a day will come when he may be reintegrated back into the mainstream of free community, not only as repentant, but with humanity back in his system. It is the role of the State through its corrective service to reintroduce humanity back on an erring member.

Of course, it is an impossibility to redeem someone under a condition which does not encourage nor inspire positive change. At best, efforts at redemption properly applied should lead to reform and not to deform.

Reprinted with permission from philippineprisons.com

Other articles by Tesoro

Venancio J. Tesoro is presently Penal Superintendent IV of the Bureau of Corrections and has written several books on Criminal Justice Administration (specifically Corrections). He is also an academician, Criminology Board Reviewer, public speaker and a certified lecturer of Penology.


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