There is something to question about how Oplan Tokhang would deal with people confirmed to be drug users or dealers in light of the overcrowding of inmates at the Cordova police precinct.
During his visit to the tiny landlocked town, Cebu Gov. Hilario Davide III saw for himself how two cells built to accommodate only 30 persons were overstuffed with 90 inmate s both male and female.
Imagine living in a foul-smelling, poorly ventilated, unsanitary and cramped cell with 30 other suspects bearing criminal records, and one begins to see why there are riots that break inside the Cordova police precinct.
The overcrowding supposedly stemmed from the police’s intensified Oplan Tokhang operations that was joined in by the governor and vice governor last Thursday.
With no rehab centers within the immediate vicinity, the police are forced to detain the suspects at least until they know what to do with them. Davide managed to ease the congestion at the Cordova police precinct by ordering the transfer of some inmates to the already overcrowded Cebu Provincial Detention and Rehabilitation Center (CPDRC).
There is word that the CPDRC is building additional cells to hold the inmates within their compound, but a lot of work is needed to make the facility a lot more tolerable for the prison population, who should be reformed and rehabilitated instead of being forced to rot there for the remainder of their lifetimes.
Sure, there may be 30 or more inmates shipped from the CPDRC to the National Penitentiary in Muntinlupa City who may be used as underlings by the detained drug lords there, but that only solves part of the problem.
Summary killings are out of the question of course, so the priority remains — quickly identifying the criminal suspect and begin the earnest, arduous task of reforming and rehabilitating him/her in prison.
No matter how large and adequately equipped our prisons are, there will always come a time when they will be overstuffed that the local government and the state will be forced to build bigger and better prisons at the cost of expending too much of their resources that should be spent for their constituents.
In that respect, the prisons are looked on as less oppressive and more a halfway house by the poor who commit crimes so they can have a roof over their heads and free meals paid for by the state; never mind if their quarters are dingy and their food unfit for humans.
Which is where the other stakeholders like the church and the community come in. Rehabilitation is an admittedly costly, difficult task, but the alternatives are a lot more steeper.
Cordova and other local government units can build their prisons, but they should also build venues and programs for these criminal suspects to reform and to become valuable, productive members of society.
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