Two women officers from the women’s correctional center in nearby Mandaluyong came by the other day to fetch the boxes of books we had promised them.
They were quite taken by the four big boxes we were giving. In the course of our appeal for used books to redistribute to other libraries, we segregated the books according to age-friendly, gender interests, self-help, and the like.
We collected in the piles many books of a religious nature in varying degrees of intensity. We added books of a secular drift that still encouraged spirituality. These were the books that the women’s correctional center wished for their own library.
The supervising officer, Veronica La Torre gave me a sense of their work. There were 3,000 women in the center all charged and imprisoned with varying crimes with much of it selling drugs. Many have been in prison for over ten or even twenty years.
They are grouped in dormitories holding 120 women and the prison is, like other prisons, overfilled. There is a daily regimen starting at 5:00 am and there is a time during the day for a mandatory library visit. 80% of the women use the library which is why the books are welcome.
The officer tells us that there is a move by Senator Imee Marcos to have the senior convicts, (506 total), one being 90 years old and bedridden, review their cases and release those before due - before the upcoming Mother’s Day - to age, health, or sentencings that exceeded their charges.
It may sound heartwarming but I am also told that when the convict is released, they are unwelcomed by their families because of their past actions. And releasing so many elderly convicts would put a strain on senior care centers.
And sadly, as I experienced during my volunteer teaching at prisons, there is a high recidivist rate among convicts who have been brutalized in prison and cannot cope when released.
It’s not a happy ending for many released convicts. So we hope these books give some imprisoned women a sense of solace, dignity, and faith in the difficult quest to transform themselves into meaningful individuals.