Have you ever paused to wonder what it’s like to live behind bars, how inmates live on a day-to-day basis, or how juvenile delinquents cope with a life in prison? Joining an outreach activity last month in Muntinlupa City’s New Bilibid Prison gave me a few insights on the third question:
The entrance to New Bilibid Prison. Image from wikipedia.org.
Special Classes for Youth Offenders
It starts when juvenile offenders are brought to the Reception and Diagnostic Center (RDC) of the Bureau of Corrections from their respective jails upon conviction. They are evaluated prior to their classification and then sent off to either the Maximum or Medium Security Compound to serve the term of their sentences. Being juveniles, they are usually brought to the latter. Those who have a life sentence can only be classified and transferred to the former upon reaching the age of 21. From the RDC, they are automatically sent to Dormitory 111 within the Medium Security Compound of Camp Sampaguita, a cell that exclusively houses juvenile offenders.
A special school called the SCYO (or Special Classes for Youth Offenders) was founded in October 1999 by the late Superintendent Homobono Lachina for the benefit of these youths. The objectives were to keep these youthful offenders busy with enriching activities such as schooling and livelihood programs and to separate them from the general adult inmate population. Unless they choose not to, all juvenile offenders are automatically enrolled in the said program.
Around 2009, an overhaul of the SCYO structure and its system in harmony with the policies, programs, and procedures of the Training and Education Division of Bureau of Corrections was initiated by then-assistant Officer in Charge and current Officer in Charge Mrs. Carmencita Bravo. Some program objectives regarding the youths’ moral and spiritual development and personality and physical development were augmented. The school facilities and dormitory were likewise improved.
The school has 53 students at present, and they each benefit from moral and spiritual upliftment and transformation through the assistance of the Philippine Jesuit Prison Service. They also get to enhance their creative inclinations and personalities via contests and celebrations during occasions like Buwan ng Wika, National Correctional Consciousness Week, and Christmas Day. Livelihood-making project programs have also been made available for them. Check out some of the finished handicrafts made by the students:
Finished bags, wallets, and flowers from recycled materials made by the SCYO students. Photo courtesy of the SCYO.
An inmate SYCO teacher shows how wood product handicrafts are made. Photo courtesy of the SCYO.
More volunteers needed
The SCYO program has been blessed by a stream of volunteers who have generously given their time and resources to its students. Some of the volunteers include the students of Saint Aloysius Academy of Australia, the Anawim Pondering Group and Legion of Mary, Ateneo volleyball player Alyssa Valdez, several faculty and students of DLSU-Taft, San Beda College of Law students, and the Ten Outstanding Students of the Philippines (TOSP).
Inasmuch as volunteers have helped them in the past, they continue to welcome donations and sponsorships from willing donors and volunteers. The students gave us a program showcasing their singing and dancing talents during our brief outreach last July, and it was there that I noted some of their pressing needs. More than a few would benefit from dental care. They also appreciated the pairs of slippers and toiletries we handed out afterwards.
Members of the Anawin Pondering Group celebrating their birthday with the SCYO youths at New Bilibid Prison. Photo courtesy of the SCYO.
The Anawim Pondering Group with SCYO’s Officer in Charge Mrs. Carmencita Bravo. Photo courtesy of the SCYO.
The SCYO was formed to help juvenile offenders become productive, fully rehabilitated, responsible, and law-abiding members of mainstream society once released from incarceration. Would you like to make a difference by helping worthy causes such as this one? :) Just contact the number below for inquiries and for more information about the program.
The Special Classes for Youth Offenders Program
Medium Security Compound, Camp Sampaguita
New Bilibid Prison, Muntinlupa City, Metro Manila
For inquiries and more information, please contact Mrs. M. Bravo at 0912 227 4326.