"What this Country needs is not a change OF men but a change IN men" March 1980

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Mandatory 8-hour-a-day work for convicted prisoners

Independent Senator Richard J. Gordon today pushed for a strictly supervised work program in selected government projects among the estimated 85,000 prisoners serving their sentences in various jails across the country.

Believing in the power of work to reform and instill a strong sense of self-worth, Gordon reiterated his proposal contained in Senate Bill 282, which would enable detained and convicted prisoners to participate in a supervised work program.

“A person who is committed to prison must lead a productive life and not be a burden to the State while in the process of rehabilitation and reformation into a law-abiding and responsible citizen,” he said.

“Prison work program I am proposing would also promote discipline and enhance the prisoner’s self-respect, self-confidence, personal dignity and sense of responsibility by allowing him to pay for his own keep while in prison,” he added.

Gordon reiterated his proposal as the nation observes 21st Prison Awareness Week aimed at bringing dignity back to the thousands of prisoners now languishing in various jails nationwide.

Under SB 282, detained prisoners or those prisoners who are awaiting final court verdict may be allowed to volunteer for work in prison, reforestation, infrastructure and other government projects.

For convicted prisoners fit and eligible to a manual work, they are mandated to work for eight hours a day with a rest period of not less than 24 consecutive hours after six consecutive normal working days.

The Bureau of Corrections or the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology would also establish a secure work program for qualified prisoners outside the prison proper and in reforestation, infrastructure and other government projects.

These qualified prisoners would be required to wear distinctly-colored outer garments and other appropriate devices that would preserve and secure proper custody over them as well as security to the general public.

“We can have prisoners participate in building additional jail cells and common areas under strict supervision. It will save the state money which would otherwise go to paying labor, decongest the jail, and may even provide prisoners a morale boost as they engage in productive work -- instead of just counting the days or plotting against their fellow prisoners,” Gordon explained.

Gordon bill would allow a compensation for prisoners who shall embrace the prison work program in the form of taxed due the government from income, support of the prisoner, such as board, food, clothing, payment of civil liability arising from crime, support of the prisoner’s dependents, payment for legal representation or other obligations prisoner may have owned up.

“As prisoners, they may be thought of as dangerous and destructive people. As prison workers employed in reforestation or even roads, they will be seen as nurturers and builders,” he added.

Gordon also said that the work program may also teach the prisoners useful skills which may get them jobs after they have served their term.

“It will even teach them that they have great worth and lead them to realize true freedom as they liberate themselves from thinking that they are mere victims – that they have the power to redeem themselves,” he said. (30/prf)


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