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12/15/2016

Philippines jails at 'breaking point' amid Duterte's drugs war

There have been more than 40,000 drug-related arrests since a crackdown was launched by President Duterte earlier this year.
Prison officers in the Philippines are concerned that jail overcrowding as a result of President Rodrigo Duterte's bloody drug war is pushing the system to breaking point.

                                    
Latest figures show police have made more than 40,000 drug-related arrests since the anti-drug campaign was launched by the new leader when he took office in July.

Quezon City Jail has become infamous after photographs taken shortly after the start of the drug war showed inmates crammed into every inch of space, forced to sleep out of their cells in what would normally be recreation areas.

But the problems continue.

The facility was built to house 800 detainees, but currently there are nearly 3,000 within its walls. Sky News saw individual cells built for 20-30 people packed with 130 and more.

Skin diseases are spreading rapidly in the confined spaces, which can see up to 10 people share a single bunk.
Many others sleep shoulder-to-shoulder on floors, in corridors and on staircases. Contaminated water recently led to a cholera outbreak.
After the jail's population went above 4,000 at the height of the over-crowding crisis in August, the warden successfully won a court application to stop receiving new arrivals.

But officers at the jail now fear that suspension could be removed as pressure on the country's justice system continues to build.

"That would be a big problem for us, because they will get sick, they don't have enough space to sleep. They don't have enough area wherein they can move" said jail officer Lucila Abarca.

"Most of the inmates here are not visited by their families, so they just have to be content with what is provided by the government, which is not enough", she added.

The concerns of prison officers are down to the fact the overflow jails that were drafted in to help accommodate the ever-growing numbers are now also over-flowing.

Quezon City Annex, which sits a few miles from the main jail, was built for 300 inmates but has now also stopped taking new arrivals after its population swelled to close to 1,000.
There have been nearly 6,000 killings since the drug war began - around a third alleged 'drug personalities' shot by police, the rest gunned down by vigilante death squads.

For all this, there are many even within the prison walls, who continue to back President Duterte whose popularity in polling shows no signs of being dented by the mounting death toll of his drug war.

One young inmate at Quezon City Jail, arrested in August on drug offences, told Sky News: "I like him, I actually voted for him. I didn't want to go against him.

"There are many people getting into bad situations because of drugs".
But like many, he qualified his statement when it came to violence that has engulfed the country.

He said: "What I'm worried about is the killings. Killing people won't change anything if they don't stop the flow of drugs.

"When I watch the news it's normally the small time dealers and users getting targeted - not drug lords. Always the small people."

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