In the latest chapter of Philippine corruption drama, a police raid of a large prison complex revealed the lavish accommodations enjoyed by several drug lords. The luxury cells included jacuzzis, strip bars, and marble-tiled bathrooms. Police also uncovered methamphetamines, inflatable sex dolls, and a small concert stage, complete with strobe lights and a disco ball. The prisoners involved were found with over $40,000 each in their pockets, which they had kept on hand in order to pay off prison officials. It is incredible that such a blatant abuse of the system took place under the watch of government officials. As one anticorruption advocate noted, the scandal highlighted the frustrating truth that, due to widespread corruption in the prison system, even a conviction does not guarantee that justice has been done.
The Philippine example may be extreme, but the issue of prison corruption is an important one, and it receives far less attention from the anticorruption community than it should. To be sure, there have been a few studies about this topic, including the U4 Issue Report on Detention and Corrections, released in January 2015. But the U4 Report, while helpful in some ways, contains only broad, general assessments about the possible causes of corruption among prison officials. Moreover, the report considered the issue of prison corruption in isolation—it focused only on the effects of such corruption on the prison itself, without addressing the effects on the broader fight against corruption in society at large. While prosecutorial efforts and institutional reforms are crucial to anticorruption efforts, it is also extremely important that prison officials act in accordance with the law, and ensure that justice is, in fact, done. Continue reading