Should studying be required in jails?

Jee Y. Geronimo
Should studying be required in jails?
Yes, officials say, because studying keeps inmates away from vices and gives them a better chances in life when they get out

MANILA, Philippines – Every year, about 1,500 inmates in the Maximum Security Compound of the New Bilibid Prison in Muntinlupa City enroll in the education department’s informal education program, the Alternative Learning System (ALS).

But since inmates are not obligated to stay in school, not everyone completes the program. To instill discipline, the ALS administration drops students with 3 consecutive absences. 

On Thursday, March 12, only 542 or a third of the annual enrollees graduated.

Prison guard Eduardo Cabuhat, the officer-in-charge of ALS in New Bilibid, said if ALS is made mandatory, inmates would be more productive while in jail.

Kasi ‘pag hindi nag-aaral, kadalasan magsusugal, magbibisyo, sa bisyo napunta. Samantalang nag-aaral, nalilibang na, nakakatapos pa ng pag-aaral,” Cabuhat told reporters after Thursday’s graduation. 

(Because if they’re not studying, they are instead gambling and taking up vices. If they study, they would not only enjoy it but also get to finish their schooling.)

PRODUCTIVE INSIDE JAIL. With the Alternative Learning System, inmates can hone their skills in the arts. Photo by Jee Geronimo/Rappler

The ALS program in Bilibid is run by 69 teachers, all of them inmates. Most, if not all, of them graduated college before they were imprisoned, and they follow their lesson plans strictly under the supervision of the administration. (READ: Making friends in jail: A mobile teacher’s story)

The passing rate of inmates in the Accreditation and Equivalency (A&E) Test is exemplary. For instance, 210 out of 214 takers passed the 2014 exam. 

Cabuhat said inmates who finish ALS while serving time will have better lives once they get out. (READ: Are graduates of alternative high schools ready for college?)

Hinihingi namin kay Secretary [Armin] Luistro na kausapin ang Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), ang aming director, na obligahin ‘yung mga estudyante, mga inmate, na mag-aral,” he said. 

(We’re asking Secretary [Armin] Luistro to talk to the Bureau of Corrections, to our director, and require students, inmates, to study.)

ALS: Best reformatory program

Luistro backs Cabuhat’s proposal, but not just for the sake of requiring inmates. (READ: Luistro says sorry to graduating inmates: We’ve let you down)

“The best reformatory in the world is an educational program. Because how do you reform individuals who have been sentenced, who have acknowledged their sins and are serving their sentence?”

He added: “You don’t put them in prison. You create a program where they can rise from where they fell, and what better way to do that than education?” he said. 

If inmates are only serving their sentence for the sake of serving it, Luistro said that is punishment and not reformation, which is the mission of BuCor.

Nagbago na ang mundo. Ang sabi ng mundo, nagkasala ang tao, ang programa dapat hindi penitentiary, dapat reformatory (The world has changed. The world says if a person has sinned, the program should not be penitentiary, but reformatory). So the best reform that people can undergo and transformation is via education, and that’s why it should be mandatory,” the education secretary said. –

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Jee Y. Geronimo

Jee is part of Rappler's Central Desk, handling most of the world, science, and environment stories on the site. She enjoys listening to podcasts and K-pop, watching Asian dramas, and running long distances. She hopes to visit Israel someday to retrace the steps of her Savior.