Last February, photojournalist Noel Celis took a snap for the Agence France-Presse that gave us a disturbing glimpse of the subhuman conditions that inmates of the Quezon City Jail have to deal with daily.
The striking image, which revealed the problem of overcrowding within our penitentiaries, went on to win third place under the General News category of the 60th World Press Photo Contest.
On paper, the Quezon City Jail which is a correctional facility under the jurisdiction of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) was meant to hold 700 inmates. However, it is now home to nearly five times that number with over 3,400 inmates detained there.
So what’s it really like to live in the Quezon City Jail? Through an interactive 360-degree footage, GMA News’ Raffy Tima takes us one step closer to finding out the real situation inside the jam-packed jail.
The four-minute video starts with hundreds of half-naked inmates huddled on the jail’s basketball court while assuming a squatting position. This only means one thing: the BJMP was conducting a surprise inspection that more often than not yielded various contraband and other illegal items smuggled inside the prison. But for the inmates, the inspection meant they would be getting a much-needed breath of fresh air and a little sun on the side if the weather was nice.
Tima’s team went inside one of the jail’s holding sections that was currently being inspected. The cell could only detain 70 inmates but at least 400 prisoners were forced out to give way to the inspection team.
It was dark inside the cells, with narrow passageways and low ceilings linking each cramped room that served as beds for a handful of inmates. Several makeshift floors were also added to maximize space but needless to say, this was not enough to accommodate everyone.
In this labyrinth-like enclosure, the inspection team easily found a bunch of sharpened objects, from wood to plastic, that inmates most likely used to settle disputes within the riot-prone territory.
So far, the BJMP has already sought the help of the local government to expand the area of their jails. Land has been allotted for a new facility but construction has yet to begin.