Modernizing the Bureau of Corrections for the Benefit of Inmates

After a long wait, modernization of the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) will soon be under way.  Now, there is hope that the rights and general welfare of inmates will be better protected.

President Aquino has recently signed RA 10575 or “The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013,” last May 24, 2013. This law seeks to promote the general welfare and safeguard the basic rights of every prisoner incarcerated in our national penitentiary. It also recognizes the responsibility of the State to strengthen government capability aimed towards the institutionalization of highly efficient and competent correctional services.

Background

The Bureau of Corrections is an agency of the Department of Justice tasked with the rehabilitation and reformation of prisoners.

“Bureau of Prisons” was the old name of this agency before the Administrative Code of 1987 and Proclamation No. 495, issued on November 22, 1989, changed the agency’s name to the current “Bureau of Corrections.”

The Bureau of Corrections currently has 7 operating units located nationwide, namely: the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City, the Correctional Institution for Women (CIW) in Mandaluyong City, the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm in Puerto Princesa City, Palawan, the Sablayan Prison and Penal Farm in Occidental Mindoro, the San Ramon Prison and Penal Farm in Zamboanga City, the Leyte Regional Prison in Abuyog, Leyte, and the Davao Prison and Penal Farm in Panabo, Davao.

Its operations are guided mainly by the Bureau of Corrections Operating Manual which governs the safekeeping and treatment of inmates confined in national penal establishments.

The Bureau of Corrections Act of 2013

The Act focuses on the modernization, professionalization, and restructuring of the BuCor by upgrading its facilities, increasing the number of its personnel, upgrading the level of qualifications of their personnel and standardizing their base pay, retirement and other benefits, making it at par with that of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP).

Section 4 of the Act states that the BuCor shall be in charge of safekeeping and instituting reformation programs to national inmates sentenced to more than three years.

The safekeeping of inmates shall include decent provision of quarters, food, water and clothing in compliance with established United Nations standards. The security of inmates shall be undertaken by the Custodial Force consisting of Corrections Officers with a ranking system and salary grades similar to its counterpart in the BJMP.

On the other hand, the reformation of inmates shall include Moral and Spiritual Program, Education and Training Program, Work and Livelihood Program, Sports and Recreation Program, Health and Welfare Program, and Behavior Modification Program, to include Therapeutic Community.

 Operations of the BuCor

Section 5 of the Act describes the directorial structure of the Bureau of Corrections wherein the operations are divided into the following:

  • Directorate for Reception and Diagnostics (DRD) (formerly Reception and Diagnostic Center)- reception of inmates;
  • Security and Operations Directorates – providing basic needs and security of inmates;
  • Reformation Directorates- administering reformation programs; and
  • Directorate for External Relations (DER) (formerly External Relations Division (ERD)- preparation of inmates for reintegration to mainstream society.

Under the Act, the Department of Justice (DOJ) shall maintain a relationship of administrative supervision with the BuCor, except that the DOJ shall retain authority over the power to review, reverse, revise or modify the decisions of the BuCor in the exercise of its regulatory or quasi-judicial functions.

Section 9 of the Act enumerates the key positions of the BuCor with the Director who shall head the BuCor and 3 Deputy Directors—for administration, security and operations, and reformation—who shall assist the Director.

The Director and Deputy Directors of the BuCor shall serve a tour of duty not to exceed six years from the date of appointment.

The other positions are the following: The Head of the BuCor with the position and title of Director General of Corrections; the second officers in command with the position and title of Deputy Directors of Corrections; the third officers in command with the position and title of Corrections Chief Superintendent; the fourth officer in command with the position and title of Corrections Senior Superintendent; and the fifth officer in command with the position and title of Corrections Superintendent.

The BuCor is mandated to maintain the custodial personnel-to-inmate ratio of 1:7 and reformation personnel-to-inmate ratio of 1:24. It is authorized to increase its manpower to meet such ratio and may continue to increase personnel per percentage rate increase of committed inmates annually or as the need arises (Section 10).

Professionalization of the BuCor

Aside from the operational aspect of the BuCor, the Act highlights the professionalization and upgrading of standards in the appointment of BuCor personnel. (Section 11, 14, 15). It designated the DOJ to design and establish a professionalization and qualifications upgrading program for personnel of the BuCor, in coordination with the Civil Service Commission and the Commission on Higher Education, through an off campus education program or other similar programs within 90 days from effectivity of the Act.

It also designated the BuCor to establish a system of attrition for the personnel of the BuCor within 5 years from the effectivity of the Act, to be submitted to the DOJ for approval. The principles of the attrition system are provided for under the Act (Section 16).

The Bucor was also mandated to establish a system of promotion for the personnel of the BuCor through the rationalized promotion system wherein promotion shall be based on merit and on the availability of vacant ranks in the BuCor staffing pattern. It shall be a gender-fair system so as to ensure that women personnel of the BuCor shall enjoy equal opportunity for promotion as to men.

In order to boost commitment to service and professionalism, the Act also provided for a standardization of the base pay and other benefits of the uniformed personnel of the BuCor (Section 20).

The Act took effect on June 15, 2013, 15 days after its publication in two newspapers of general circulation.

The law’s implementing rules and regulations will be promulgated by the DOJ, in coordination with the BuCor, the Civil Service Commission, the Department of Budget and Management, and the Department of Finance, within 90 days from effectivity of the Act.

 (Ricky Ongkiko and Melissa Asuncion A. Ursua co-authored this post.)

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