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South Cotabato Jail is one of the most overcrowded prisons in the world. Murderers, rapists, drug dealers–the guilty and the innocent–are all behind bars together. In a jail designed for 600 prisoners, more than 2000 inmates are crammed into cells the size of shoe boxes. The prison is bursting at the seams, and there is no hope of improvement, for the inmates have not even been convicted. Thanks to President Duterte’s war on drugs, the Filipino justice system is totally overwhelmed. Instead of only putting those convicted behind bars, thousands of accused individuals are forced to await a verdict together in inhuman conditions: cramped space, tropical heat, insufficient water, and, worst of all, a jail that is ruled by the inmates. The guards can’t control the mass of prisoners. As a result, the jail is dominated by hierarchies and power relations. Ronniel Dumagit doesn’t yet know what awaits him. He’s a newbie. It’s his first time in jail. Faster than he’d like to, he’ll have to learn how the prison works, what the hierarchy looks like, and how he has to behave in order to survive. One prisoner decides what status and privileges each of the other inmates has inside the prison. They call him El Presidente: Glecerio de Pedro, and his henchmen rule the prison. The guards are totally outnumbered. They use surprise inspections to try to increase their authority, but they can’t change the situation. Nor can they do anything about the daily struggle for survival, for space, for air.
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