The correctional system in United States is managed by the Federal Bureau of Prisons or commonly known as the BOP. It was founded during the year 1930. “The bureau was responsible for the safekeeping, care, protection, instruction, and discipline of all persons charged or convicted of offenses against the United States and before 1930, the operation functioned with little control by Washington” (Clear, Cole, & Reisig, 2010, p. 246). It works under the United States Department of Justice and presently, the agency also manages criminal offenders seized for violation of the ruling of the District of Columbia.
Similar to the US correctional system, the Bureau of Corrections in the Philippines which is known as BuCor is responsible for the custody of lawbreakers against the country. Presently, its operating units are only 7 functioning on a national scale and widely dispersed in different regions particularly the New Bilibid Prison, The Correctional Institution for Women, Sablayan Prison, Leyte Regional Prison, Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm, Davao Prison and Penal Farm, and San Ramon Prison compared to greater than 100 institutions, more than 20 community corrections centers and 6 district centers of US correctional system.
The foremost objective of the BOP is to shield “society by confining offenders in the controlled environments of prisons and community-based facilities that are safe, humane, cost-efficient, and appropriately secure, and that provide work and other self-improvement opportunities to assist offenders in becoming law-abiding citizens” (Bozeman, p. 37). The mission statement of BuCor is tantamount to the Federal Bureau of Prisons of United States. Among its mandate include the locking up of national offenders, making primary needs available, using prisoner workforce to achieve industrial ventures, and financially compensating inmates for participating in government projects and carrying out programs to avert criminal conduct.
The population of criminal offenders incarcerated in Philippine national prisons is 25,002 with only 951 population of female inmates and “there were 8,080 inmates deployed to work in three private entities and in various government offices; inmates hired as banana plantation workers in TADECO received an average of P2,600 monthly compensation” (National Statistical Coordination Board, 2002). The 2 national prison facilities particularly Correctional Institution for Women situated in Mandaluyong City and New Bilibid Prison which is located in Muntinlupa city are reported to be congested given that the women prison facility can only contain 500 inmates while presently it holds more than 900 while the other facility has a limited capacity of 8,700 but it presently holds double of its capacity.
The inmate population of Philippine correctional system is way behind the American correctional system. In the second quarter of the year 2010, Federal Bureau of Prisons possesses more than 200,000 inmates. Similar to the Philippine population, female lawbreakers are fewer than men with only 13,760 whereas the male inmates are more than 196,000. The inmates in the Bureau of Corrections are generally Filipinos unlike the BOP which has diverse nationalities and racial backgrounds consisting of Hispanics, Black Americans, Asians, White Americans, Native Americans and some foreigners coming from Cuba, Mexico and Dominican Republic.
Security Level and Prison life
The security level in the US correctional system comprised of six levels. The categorization system had been established during the second quarter of 1979. The classification highly depends on the number of break outs, imprisonment period, and seriousness of the crime and the record of violent behavior inside the facility. “The security level is determined by the type of perimeter security, number of towers, external patrols, detection devices, security of housing areas, type of living quarters, and the level of staffing” (McShane & Williams, 1996, p. 333). The least secure is the Security level 1 and the most protected is the security level 6. In the Philippine prison system, there are only 2 levels of security specifically maximum security and low security. A good case in point of low security prison is “the Iwahig Prison and Penal Farm which has no walls and almost no barriers; the only precaution is a head count 3 times a day when the prisoners are mandated to gather in the central village square” (“Iwahig prison and,” ).
In reference to prison life, the Philippine correctional system is considerably lenient in some facilities. The correctional officers permit family members of inmates to stay in the prison cell during the duration of their incarceration which is why fewer escapes occur in low security facilities. The federal prison in United States does not permit conjugal visits while the Bureau of Corrections in Philippines allows conjugal visits.
In United States, the incidence of prison gangs in federal prison is only more than 11 percent and is considerably low compared to state prisons. In prison gang, “the members have done in prison what many people do elsewhere when they feel personally powerless and vulnerable, they organize to fight back and enhance their own status and control through connection to a more powerful group” (Gaines & Miller, 2008, p. 452). In comparison to US federal prisons, the Philippine correctional officers are more laid-back given that there are no known prison gangs operating in the facilities. The Bahala Na Gang which is translated as Come What May gang was infamous 60 years ago and there are reports presenting that the abovementioned gang is no longer existing.
Viewpoint on rehabilitation and programs
The United States federal correctional system spends more than $400 million to enhance the educational skills of the inmates by allowing prisoners to earn General Equivalency Development which corresponds to high school education. About thousand inmates obtained associate’s degree while more than a hundred finished bachelor’s degree. In addition to this, some rehabilitation programs involved teaching interview skills and asset management. Parenting skills, ways to healthy and pleasant lifestyle and driving lessons are also provided.
In comparison to US federal prisons, the Philippine correctional system has depleted budget to provide four-year or two-year college courses. Most rehabilitation programs are centered on improving physical, spiritual and emotional wellbeing. The correctional officers are also asked by facilitators to join with prison inmates in engaging in laughter yoga. Choreographed dancing is facilitated inside Philippine prisons and outsiders may watch the performance during certain festivities. Only vocational programs are provided as well as reflexology classes. Livelihood activities are also taught to gear them when they are out of the prison.
The US federal prison system had put an end to parole during 1987; “those inmates who were sentenced before this date may be eligible for parole after they have served one third of their original sentence” (Bosworth, 2004, p. 97). Parole system is applicable in the Philippines and the president is the person in-charge of the final decision depending on the recommendation of parole officers.
More effective correctional system
The US correctional system is more effective than Philippine prison system with respect to the security level provided and allotted budget for rehabilitation programs. Based on my personal opinion, in relation to prison life, Philippine inmates received unruffled lifestyle compared to US prisoners because the former has few or zero notorious prison gangs to deal with. Also, Philippine inmates may be uncomfortable with congested facilities however they are not stressed with much violence and harassment. The United States’ correctional system should adopt the foreign country’s correctional system in terms of conjugal visits so as to lessen sexual harassment cases among male inmates and to maintain family relations.