A Day at a Correctional

Correctional Institution for Women in Mandaluyong – our chosen adopted community that houses an estimated 1800 women inmates. We chose them as our community since the prisoners (especially the women) are one of the marginal groups who are less heard in the society. Because of our grown-up stereotypes that once a sinner, will be always a sinner, and therefore they are not always given a chance to speak or even to state their sides.
We went there to just conduct an ocular visit to get ourselves familiar with the place, people for us to know how to conceptualize an educational communication material to provide a sustainable improvement for them. As we get to the main entrance of the correctional, Ate Joy approached us and accompanied the group to the bulwagan for briefing. She set the LCD projector, the laptop and the entire place, that inevitably gave us the notion that she would deliver the briefing for us. She called somebody else and told us that she’s not the one who would give the talk. Surprisingly, we learned that Ate Joy was also an inmate, working as an assistant in the correctional. And she became one of the persons that inspired me the most on that day. I didn’t have the chance to talk to her, (or at least to know the reason why she’s there) but she justified to me that everyone indeed has a second chance.
During the briefing, I learned that being put into jail is more of a rehabilitation than a punishment. The prisoners have a chance to enhance their skills and talents, whether they excel in dressmaking, handicrafts, dancing, singing and playing instruments, guards (who guard their fellow inmates) and they can even take an Alternative Learning System for those who didn’t attain education. No wonder why inmates whose sentences are already taken away still prefere to stay in the correctional. Thus, prisoners don’t have a kain-tulog lifestyle inside. I almost cried when the speaker who briefed us told that :
“Mapalad kayo, kasi kayo nakakapag-aral, malaya at nagagawa ang gusto. Huwag niyo sayangin iyong pagkakataong ito, at sana magkita tayo muli, kayo bilang mga volunteers and hindi bilang mga bagong ipapasok sa aming institution.”
As we took a tour of the jail, everybody’s greeting us good morning, wearing a pleasant smile. Personally, I cannot even imagine that they had sinned against the law for they were so nice and approachable, that those tangerine dresses they are wearing was the one that only reminded me that they are inmates. Seems like there is a small barangay situated there. There’s a chapel, mosque, sari-sari store, canteen, gift shops and even beauty parlor. And the inmates themselves are the ones who run those mini establishments.
As we enter a small room, each of the group had to pick one ate to share a talk. That was the time I met Ate Melba, who was sentenced for 12 years because of drug pushing. As our conversation went longer, I cannot even figure out how she feels, if she’s lonely or not. But one thing I am sure, she has full of hopes and dreams that one day, she’ll walk out of that jail and start correcting her mistakes. I can even identify in general that these women are looking for somebody to listen to their problems and stories in life. I was even inspired when I knew that she only learned how to read and write when she was turned over to the correctional through the A-L-S.
However, the supplies and needs of these women prisoners are inadequate, since there are only few institutions who are helping them out, since it is a stereotype in our society that people must stay away from prisoners and therefore they should be punished. Unlike institutions like orphanage and home for the aged who are always visited and given goods.
Maybe we should shift our notions and tell ourselves that jails are not just a place where convicts are placed and let them spend some time depending on the years sentenced to them, but a place where they can change for a better persons in the future. Hence we should not call this as jail, for everyone has a right to be given second chances.