Working behind bars

By Alex Lumaque

Handicrafts and souvenir items showed the artistry, creativity and ingenuity of the Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) at the Roxas City Jail of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology in Brgy. San Jose, Roxas City.

The skills training and livelihood program gave them the opportunity to be free in crafting and carving again their life just like what they did with their products.

These products usually end up in trade fairs and caravans for the PDLs to earn for their personal upkeep as well as financial support to their families while undergoing confinement.

Also working hard his craft to help the PDLs in their unfulfilled dreams is BJMP Unit Welfare and Development Officer Senior Jail Officer 3 Ernie Olendo, who takes charge of the income generating initiatives, among others, as part of penal management through the restoration of human capabilities towards safe communities.

Olendo has been a regional PAGASA Awardee of the Civil Service Commission in 2020 and a recipient of recognitions from the BJMP 6 as the welfare and development officer for years.

“We even go live selling at the height of the pandemic to market the PDL’s already piling up handicraft and souvenir products,” said Olendo, who is also the jail’s assistant  warden.

Aside from the handicrafts, he is also instrumental in the hollow block making, bakery and vegetable projects in the facility which are earning income for the PDLs.

“They are happy if their products are sold,” he noted, adding that PDLs also developed self-esteem and motivation that they can still work and earn income after all that has happened in their life.

These products include lampshades, coin purses, anklets, bracelets, necklaces, desk organizers, key chains, sea horse figurines, handicrafts and souvenir items, among others.

The multi-awarded jail officer has what it takes to be part of the “housemates” defining moment that getting through the hard times has been much more beneficial in the long run than having an idyllic life.

Indeed, for PDLs “Michael Bok” and “Nana,” who are the leaders of the 18 livelihood workers in the facility, the livelihood and training programs have helped them financially and made their stay productive.

In their interview which was bridged and recorded by Olendo, Michael Bok, who

had been manually moulding seahorses and carving dragon lampshades, said “I realized that even though I am a PDL, I can still show my skills and creativity to other people outside.”

Michael Bok was then a tattoo artist.

For his part, Nana has been helping his family, in every little way he can, out of the sales through Olendo’s marketing facilitation.

“Some of the visitors also buy our products,” he stressed, adding that he will use the skills he learned to start a new life when he gets out for good.

The products – be it on display for sale or sold – will be a reminder that a meaningful life goes on even behind bars and a helping hand is making the correction facility’s mandates work for the reformation and reconfiguration of oneself for the much-sought freedom in time. (PIA Capiz)