Over 81,000 detainees freed in Philippines to decongest jails amid COVID-19

MANILA (Xinhua) – The Philippines released 81,888 prisoners as part of its efforts to decongest the country’s crowded jails and prevent the contamination of coronavirus disease (COVID-19) among inmates, Philippine Chief Justice Diosdado Peralta said yesterday.

In an online media briefing, Peralta said the 81,888 prisoners were released from March 17 to October 16.

He said those released, either through the posting of bail or through recognisance, served the minimum period of their penalty or granted probation.

Due to the pandemic, the Supreme Court allowed the courts to use video conferencing to speed up the resolution of cases and decongest jails, and prevent virus transmission.

The government conducted targetted COVID-19 testing in the country’s overcrowded jail facilities to curb the spread of the coronavirus.

Over 200 prisoners and jail personnel have contracted the virus, including the death of 21 high-profile prisoners of the Philippines’ national penitentiary New Bilibid Prison in Mutinlupa City.

Overcrowding is rampant in almost all jails in the country. The New Bilibid Prison, for example, can only accommodate 6,435 convicts, but it now houses 28,885 inmates.

The Philippines now has 365,799 confirmed COVID-19 cases, including 312,691 recoveries and 6,915 deaths.