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MANILA—What can inmates in the Quezon City Jail do that their counterparts in Manila can’t?

The answer used to be: “Chat with their loved ones via webcam.” But not anymore.

Starting Thursday, inmates at the Manila City Jail will also get the chance to talk to their family members on the Internet, officials said Wednesday.

After its launch at the Quezon City Jail in October, the e-Dalaw system is expanding to the Manila City Jail and will begin operations on December 1, the Department of the Interior and Local Government said.

“This is our share of raising the morale of our inmates especially now that the holiday season is fast approaching. This will be our early Christmas gift for them and their families,” Interior Secretary Jesse Robredo said in a statement.

The e-Dalaw system allows inmates to connect to their families, locally or abroad, through supervised Internet video calls.

At the Quezon City Jail, inmates are allowed to access the service Monday to Friday, from 9 a.m. to 12 noon and from 1 p.m. to 4 p.m. “E-visitors” may access the service using a Skype account from a computer.

They will first have to send a request e-mail with the name of the inmate they wish to chat with, and paralegal staff at the jail shall set up the schedule of the online meeting.

A joint project of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology  and the Office of the Solicitor General, e-Dalaw has “proven effective in addressing communication concerns of inmates with their families,” a DILG statement said.

“This is best for families who cannot visit their detained member due to financial and distance constraints,” Robredo said.

He disclosed that “30 to 40 percent” of inmates do not get visits from family members.

BJMP director Rosendo M. Dial said the e-Dalaw system also resolves security issues caused by the large number of visitors who need to be searched for contraband every visit.

The BJMP plans to extend and expand the project to the biggest jails in Metro Manila and later, in Visayas and Mindanao.

“We need to be more responsible to those we put behind bars. While we aim to punish by depriving a criminal of his liberty, we do not intend to strip him of his humanity,” said Assistant Solicitor General Karl B. Miranda.

“The surrender of his freedom is not a surrender of his dignity. it is our hope that he will be reformed by the system, and not socially deformed by it,” he said. inquirer.net

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