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Hope behind bars: Transforming lives through livelihood training

Behind iron bars and concrete walls, people serving their sentences may feel that their dreams and aspirations for themselves and their families are beyond impossible to achieve now that they are inside the four corners of their jail cell.

They may have broken the law by choice or accident and may be bound in a cell, so to speak, but never had they lost their freedom to make a difference—to recreate and change their lives. Certainly, incarceration feels awful, as it affects not just the individuals behind bars but also their families and communities.

But the 600 persons deprived of liberty (PDL) from the municipalities of Isulan, Bagumbayan, and Lebak currently in the custody of the Isulan District Jail in Barangay Kenram, Isulan, in Sultan Kudarat received a second chance through government assistance, mentoring, and guidance.

Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) 12 Community Relations Service Chief JInsp. Rowena Aujero said that the management of BJMP is bent on helping the PDLs improve their quality of life by providing them the necessary avenue and the available means to help them change and adjust to a new life inside the prison.  

"Correctional facilities are meant not for punishment but for rehabilitation. We are here to guide them [PDLs] and help them transform and change their lives," JInsp. Aujero said.

She pointed out that they are preparing these individuals to become worthy of “second chances” through the various government opportunities available to help them find sustainable employment upon their release.

Persons deprived of liberty (PDL) listen intently to the resource speaker on bread making during one of their training sessions—a short course to help PDLs hone their skills so they can start opening their bakeshop inside the Isulan District Jail as a livelihood to make them self-reliant and financially independent.

Needless to say, these individuals have recently seen a ray of hope from the Technical Education and Skills Development Authority (TESDA) 12 in their quest for second chances and meaningful rehabilitation that will eventually make them useful citizens once they return to the society.

TESDA has given them the chance to prove their worth by offering them a baking training program to hone their practical skills and teach them the value of discipline and perseverance that will eventually make them financially independent.

To augment TESDA's training assistance, the Department of Science and Technology (DOST) 12 partnered with BJMP 12 to kick off the "Science and Technology Innovation Assistance to Improve the Living Conditions of Persons Deprived of Liberty of Isulan District Jail," with a project cost of P309,806 funded under the DOST 12-Community Empowerment through Science and Technology (CEST) 2022 funds.

Engr. Sammy Malawan, regional director of DOST XII, said the assistance aimed to increase the production capacity and improve the quality of the breads made by PDLs.

Malawan said that DOST pushed for the materialization of the bakery, seeing it as a tool to help PDLs generate income for their families, considering that most of them are heads of families or breadwinners.  Despite being in jail, they still remain committed to caring for and supporting their immediate family members.

With determination to be of help, the DOST forged a memorandum of agreement with the BJMP, releasing two decks of a gas oven, a 50 kg stove, a dough roller, a working table, a spiral mixer, a weighing scale, and various baking supplies under the CEST program.

Apart from these, DOST also conducted training on food safety, specifically on hazard analysis and critical control points, and current good manufacturing practices regulations being enforced by the Food and Drug Administration, including halal quality assurance.

Isulan District Jail Warden JUSPT Brian M. Sison welcomes DOST officials and visitors headed by Undersecretary for Regional Operations Sancho Mabborang during the grand opening of the bakery project for persons deprived of liberty (PDL) on September 13.

On September 13, the Isulan District Jail held the grand opening of the bakery on behalf of its PDLs after several months of training on management and administrative functions, production systems, materials management, maintenance and upgrade of machinery and equipment, plant layout enhancement, and marketing strategies and sales.

A study shows that baking is a fusion of science and art, with some psychological benefits that bakers stand to gain. These include discipline, as one has to train the mind to read and follow instructions so it won’t lead to disaster. Aside from this, baking can develop decision-making abilities and improve sensory perception, while also becoming a medium for expression for some.

During the bakery launch, DOST Undersecretary for Regional Operations Engr. Sancho Mabborang, commended the BJMP and PDLs for coming up with such a valuable project.

Meanwhile, Isulan District Jail Warden JSupt. Brian Sison thanked TESDA, DOST, and the local government units, including other stakeholders, for the assistance they have provided to PDLs.

"We wish to express our gratitude to all stakeholders that helped turn this project into a reality for the benefit of our PDLs," he said, adding that the lives of those deprived of liberty may be complex and filled with challenges, but also with many windows of opportunity awaiting them to transform and grow.

Sison also assured that all the earnings from the bakery will go to PDLs involved in the bread production, explaining further that BJMP is only there to guide them and ensure the bakery’s smooth operations.

He said that by trying to understand PDLs’ experiences, the community can foster empathy, reduce stigma, and work towards a justice system that not only punishes but also rehabilitates.

Indeed, the baking project is a reminder that, even behind bars, there is hope for the incarcerated to realize their aspirations for a better future. (AMB – PIA Region 12)

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Harlem Jude Ferolino

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Region 12

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