Eye-opening images reveal the daily life of 3,800 inmates serving time behind the crowded walls of a notorious Philippines prison built for just 800.
Prisoners search for a corner of damp floor to squat against as they sleep, pick rusty nails and dead cockroaches out of their rations of food and suffer rashes and boils caused by the lack of ventilation and water. Inside Quezon City jail in Manila, the capital of the Philippines, there is a relentless and constant battle for space, water, food in an unhygienic facility. With 160 to 200 inmates crammed into a cell built for 20, men take turns to sleep on the cracked cement floor of an open-air basketball court, the steps of staircases, underneath beds and hammocks made out of old blankets. The prison was built six decades ago and houses prisoners whose cases are pending, according to the Inquirer. The images show the men in their day-to-day life, from bathing themselves to cooking their food and exercising in close, cramped conditions. Wearing their regulation yellow shirts, they also participate in group dancing contests, taking over the concrete basketball court and the walkway above. One former inmate at the Quezon City jail returned to the prison after studying criminal justice at the Southern Illinois University in the United States.
Raymund Narag says he was 20 when he was accused of a crime he did not commit, the murder of a young man in the Philippines, according to the GMA Network. Mr Narag served seven years, where he said he stayed in a cell with 30 other men instead of the intended five and lived off a diet of dried fish that he says barely sustained him. In his book ‘Freedom and Death Inside the Jail’, Dr Narag details the horrendous living conditions the inmates are subjected to and the fear that consumed him. ‘For almost seven years, I experienced death every waking moment of my life inside the jail,’ he said. Men are forced to sleep on any damp floor space they can find or in a squatted position – which causes some inmates to have a stroke – because of the severe overcrowding, he said. Inmates have deemed the food rations served at unusual hours throughout the day and night as ‘fit for pigs.’ Dr Narag said food rations are so small, and often can contain rusty nails and cockroaches, forcing the men to go hungry or steal other inmates food..
The dirty conditions, lack of food, sweltering heat and no ventilation within the cells causes numerous inmates to become ill or develop rashes and boils, he said. ‘Inmates are prone to contagious diseases because of the poor living conditions in their cells. They sleep in overcrowded, poorly ventilated cells. The supply of potable water is very limited. Food rations have inadequate nutritional content. Sick and healthy inmates are grouped in the same cells.’ ‘Every month in Quezon City Jail, around two to five inmates die of illness,’ he said. Severe boredom also causes the men to become depressed and heightens mental health issues.
Dr Narag describes an inmate called Francis in his book, saying that his story is just one of thousands of similar tales from within the jail. Francis was accused of molesting a girl but claimed his innocence and was sent to Quezon while awaiting trial. ‘…He found himself in a 30-square meter cell,m which he was to share with 180 inmates. The airless room reeked of stink – a heady mix of sweat, garbage, unwashed clothes. No bed or sleeping mat was in sight, only a small, vacant corner offering him two options so he could get some sleep – stand against the wall or squat on the damp floor.’ Dr Narag said he left the jail in 2002 after seven years, determined to talk about the horrors he had seen. ‘A walk through the cells in Quezon City Jail makes one realize how far behind the normal jail standards the penal institution lags.’