|LONG TERMERS: A Category of Prisoners|
|By Venancio J. Tesoro, Penal Superintendent IV of the Bureau of Corrections|
In a scale of one hundred, long termers or those sentenced to Life Imprisonment comprise, more or less, 20% of the prison population. They are, in the estimation of the judiciary, pure predators as viewed in the context of the offense they have committed. They are most likely to spend more than a decade or perhaps to stay during the period of their natural life under the regime of incarceration.
In other words, there is no such thing as receiving freedom in their future lexicon. If at all there is “freedom” they ought to exercise in the most challenging way, although in a way, it is merely a stretch of freedom to live within bounds of the prison community and stay submissive in a restricted sense. It is this kind of freedom or liberty which they appreciate even in the small confines where they are situated. They may abuse themselves or the space given them or live like vegetables to await the withering theme of time.
It is the only period which they can express their humanity, whether forlorn by guilt or neglected as a consequence of absurdity. In some conservative countries, their situation deserves little sympathy since they will be condemned anyway. Where there is death penalty, they are most likely candidates for eventual scheduling. But in countries where the capital punishment is reduced to life of incarceration, the long toil of custodial supervision rests on the shoulders of correctional officers.
History is replete with cases, instances where a death convict is provided the leeway to conduct himself while awaiting the final verdict on his fate. Jose Rizal was sent to far away Zamboanga to repent (but became prominent and had amassed properties in the area) while Bagumbayan was being prepared for his execution. Socrates, had a grand time passing on to his students his thoughts, dangerous as it were, earlier on, was required to surrender his life by drinking hemlock, a poison, fit for those whose offense was corrupting the minds of youth. And who will not forget how Napoleon Bonaparte virtually lived in an island as a convict, complete with amenities, only to die later.
But of course there are the terrorists, the serial killers, incorrigible thieves, maniacs, repeat offenders amidst the throng of those sentenced for long term imprisonment. While they deserve to reach Promise Land sooner as the law (or nature) is to be applied, their stint at times are not actually given to resignation. Majority is not even remorseful.
They thought they were just unlucky, a bunch of losers, unconnected and wretched. They would rather spend the remaining period of their respective time not according to how they should conduct themselves, but in accordance with how they can favor their star. We oftentimes mistook long termers with ordinary jailbirds. They are a world different. We blame prison administrators for allowing long termers to act radiantly as if consented or tolerated to defy discipline. But that is how long termers are—they will die sooner or would wither within, hence there is no use for limitations.
They openly resist and invite force if need be. They would challenge authorities to tie them down to the point of imposing torture. They would deceive themselves on a belief that if they cannot get what they want; they would send their custodian to the brink of hopelessness. They would rather drown in the ocean they have created and not on a sinkhole, which prison administrators have created for them. If the public wanted to have a spectacle of witnessing long term offenders rue and scowl in a cage, they are in for a surprise. They have a different persona given the worst situation. More than that, they are Filipinos, a race that never shrink even in the worst condition.
As a result however, it is the prison worker who is blamed for this cultural mindset, for such implied belligerence.
Prison administration must educate the public on this specific sector within their scope or face misunderstanding and unfortunate confusion on their vaunted role in the criminal justice system.
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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