04/21/2006, 00.00
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Filipino bishops aim to improve prisons

At a meeting, 100 participants will discuss ways of making inmates' living conditions more humane.  

Baguio City (AsiaNews/Cbcp) – A three-day conference organised by the Episcopal Commission on Prison Pastoral Care (ECPPC), a branch of the Filipino Conference of Bishops (CBCP), is starting today at the San Pablo Seminary in Baguio City. Entitled "Sharing Our New Life with You", the conference aims to promote an evolution in the prison system to make it more humane, and to examine problems linked to justice, religious ministry in prisons, the juvenile justice system and other issues. Around 100 people are taking part, including chaplains and volunteers working in prisons, coming from diverse dioceses.

Prisons in the Philippines are very overcrowded: in Manila, a prison built to hold 800 detainees has more than 5,000. The prison in Quezon City is meant to cater for 815 people, but its population has reached nearly 3,500 inmates. This means each detainee has less than 0.3 square metres of space compared to three square metres per detainee stipulated by the United Nations. Detainees die of tuberculosis, chickenpox and other simple diseases that spread rapidly. Many prisoners die before their trial.

The CBCP maintains that prison inmates are among the poorest of the poor and so they deserve the attention of the church. The ECPPC is at work in prisons with a service manned by volunteers aimed at rehabilitating the sector.

On 23 April, the last day of the meeting, participants will visit the prison in Baguio City, a prison in Benguet district, and the provincial prison.

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