imyeyes-banner-sqIn My EyesBy Edward B. Antonio

IN MY EYES: Comfort in jail

Last time around, I brushed elbows with the main man of the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail.

His name is Jail Warden Raymund Tabios, a good-looking, workaholic jail officer who, at 44, just got married recently to his pretty sweetheart, the provincial government’s administrator.

But this will be another story, fellas.

Tabios said there is a big difference between jail and prison.

“Jails are facilities operated by local authorities and used to confine offenders who are not yet convicted by the court. In other words, they are all assumed to be innocent unless proven guilty. Jails are used to temporarily house individuals awaiting trial. Prisons are cells where the convicted ones are sent to serve their sentences like the New Bilibid Prisons,” he said.

He said that while these PDLs Persons Deprived of Liberty (that’s the term now) are in jail, they are reformed.

Why is my title “Comfort in Jail?”

Fellow visiting scribes say, “If you want to progress in life, go to jail!”

And why not?

The last time around we visited Warden Tabios, the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail, which contain 353 PDLs (324 males and 29 females where 60% has drug cases) has transformed into one that is probably the best jail in the region or even in the country.

Consider the following:

The compound is wide. The air is fresh. The surroundings are green. To take advantage of the space, Tabios, through the aid of the provincial government, converted a considerable space for gardening where the PDLs get their daily vegetable supplies.

It is one of the best veggie gardens I have ever seen, fellas. It’s green all over.

“It was once a dry, parched area, so we requested truckloads of organic soil from Governor Ryan which he immediately gave,” Tabios said.

Livelihood here also booms.

Regularly, the Department of Agriculture (DA) conducts seminar-training on the PDLs to teach them various livelihood programs. Today, the PDLs are so adept in making bonsai beads that their products have become the apple of the eyes of tourists, both local and foreign. With different designs that would rival the best in the world, the business is so booming that the PDLs can already help their families.

Warden Tabios said: “Instead that their family members give them money to buy their daily needs, they are already the ones sending money to their families!”

Aside from beads, we also saw table decorations of different shapes and sizes.

Last summer, the DA conducted training on mushroom culture. The training was so successful that the Provincial Government constructed two mushroom houses (one to be operated by the male PDLs, the other one by the females) while the DA provided the technology and fruiting bags.

And so, it came to pass that the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail is now one of the foremost suppliers of mushroom in the province!

“Half of the income goes to them while the other half goes to the jail management for maintenance and operation supplies. These two livelihood programs are now helping the PDL families,” Tabios added.

Lately, Provincial Board Member Efren “ER” Rafanan facilitated the introduction of the production of organic fertilizer there. Another training is about to commence for the program with no less than the DA providing the seminar-training.

“The DA has already acquired a National Certificate II accreditation to conduct the training and this will again add to the income of the inmates. The provincial government through Governor Ryan Singson is always ready to help make this program successful,” he said.

The Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail has also a cooperative store.

“There’s really no problem of inmate supplies here,” Tabios said.

Ben Pacris, an anchor for a weekly TV forum program said: “Kasla saan a pagbaludan ditoy. Pagala-gala laeng dagitoy a PDLs (This area doesn’t look like a prison. The inmates just walk around as if they are not prisoners).”

The main administration, training and guard areas are separated from the PDLs’ wide compound, so wide that they can move freely around.

Inside, the following could be seen: a big covered court where the PDLs can play basketball or volleyball, comfort facilities and the cooperative store.

Warden Tabios said that there are also regular services offered by religious groups.

“Most of these inmates have already reformed. I hope there will be more hearings for them so their cases will already be resolved and those innocents can go home already to their families,” he said.

But there are those who don’t want to go home already, fellas. They say life here is better and they earn money, too.

How about conjugal visits, warden?

“Ah, there are conjugal visits, too, but for ‘legal’ spouses only. They must bring with them their marriage contract as a proof, otherwise, we won’t allow these conjugal visits,” he said, smiling end to end.

If there is only a contest in a search for outstanding provincial jail, the Ilocos Sur Provincial Jail under the provincial government and Warden Raymund Tabios would be the entry to beat. In fact, it is now one of the tourist attractions of the province.

Take the tour sometime, fellas, and be astounded, too.

To see is to believe! #