The courts are so overburdened that on average, defendants wait four to six years after their arrest to be sentenced, despite a constitutional guarantee of a speedy trial within 180 days. Public defenders are overwhelmed, averaging more than 1,000 cases each, and jails are crowded with prisoners awaiting trial.
Prisoners gather in their cells four times each day for a headcount. Although Taguig Jail operates at 250% of capacity, it is one of the least crowded prisons in the Manila area.
Prisons are severely underfunded and the living conditions are poor. Cells have no running water or toiletries, and a lack of hygiene makes skin disease common.
This prisoner has placed portraits of his children next to pictures of naked women taken from magazines. Relationships between prisoners and their families often break down due to the stress that the jail time puts on a marriage.
Because prisons are so understaffed, the responsibility of keeping order among prisoners has fallen to prison gangs. These gangs enforce rules to protect inmates and their property and to provide cell maintenance, medicine and utilities. Infractions are punished with beatings.
The Philippines is a predominately Catholic nation. Religious meetings are available for prisoners within every jail, and they are well attended.
In the Philippines, an overburdened justice system has become so clogged that the average case lasts four to six years. Despite only an 18% conviction rate, police continue to arrest suspects without warrants or witnesses - a violation of Filipino law. Understaffed and underfunded prisons now operate between 200 and 1,000% of capacity as marginalized citizens struggled to cope with a broken system.
Younger inmates often come from broken, poverty-stricken homes. They are picked up for thievery, drug use or violent crimes. Scars from self-mutilation are common.
Very little emphasis is put on prisoners' health and exercise. Some jails have a weightlifting area that is run by gangs for a profit. Other jails, like this one, have basketball courts, though they are heavily regulated.
The prison system in the Philippines is often criticized for having inadequate programs. Inmates have far too much idle time and no way to make money. Gangs assign menial tasks, such as selling cigarettes or cleaning cells, to prisoners with no other source of income. They earn around $0.90 a day.
Inmates take a nap during the midday heat while a trustee folds laundry for the guards. Although cells are lined with triple bunks, prisoners still outnumber the beds. Inmates are forced to find shelter in the hallways or public areas.
Inmates depend on financial help from visiting family and friends to buy necessities like soap, clothing and supplementary meals. But many inmates do not have this support – even if acquitted, the stigma attached to years of jail time often erodes family ties.