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Another batch of CEBB students in Davao City Jail earns bachelor's degree

A step toward freedom

Marking a step toward freedom and a first for College Education Behind Bars at the Davao City Jail, three Persons Deprived of Liberty (DPL) graduated with a four-year bachelor’s degree. The students in the higher education program are the first to earn a four-year college degree, and thus a diploma, from the University of the Southeastern Philippines while incarcerated. This diploma allows the graduates to take a step toward freedom. Their success refutes the notion that offenders do not merit tertiary education and do not have the capacity to change, a view often perpetuated by media as it sensationalizes the darker side of humanity in confinement. Today we celebrate the bright side as a contrast to current crises. To both the public and to elected officials, this significant graduation conveys an important message that says the more opportunities DPL have to learn, value education, and seize possibilities, then the greater the chance they will break the cycle of imprisonment not just for themselves but for future generations to come. These individuals have shown great resilience and discipline by completing their college degree plan. Further, their commitment and adherence to rules and regulations define the best way to implement the Good Conduct Time Allowance (GCTA) law for a reduction of sentences. In fact, one of CEBB’s PDL students got a total reduction of more than nine years from her sentence.

College Education Behind Bars creates new choices as well as new and alternative ways of being and thinking that lie between the extreme of compliance and disobedience, between resistance and surrender, between personal accountability and forgiveness and success. Today’s prisons are not conducive for rehabilitation; they are human warehouses. Although it is critical that we protect citizens, the focus on protecting the public by locking offenders away and keeping them inside as long as possible does not allow fo rehabilitation, so that when PDL return to society, and most of them do, they are no longer a threat but become an asset.

Congratulations to the class of 2023! We wish them the very best as they start a new chapter in their life. We are proud of their accomplishment. Our hope is that each of them learned from their past mistakes and have turned them into successes through College Education Behind Bars. We pray they will grow spiritually and professionally. The greatest lesson they have learned in the program is that the efforts of the entire community made their education work so that the benefits they reap are not only for them as individuals but also for the entire community at large. Thus, education is a community effort with community benefits. Now that they have earned their college degree, they can write their own stories.

SETBI thanks the people who with their determination, vision, and leadership inspired these graduates and made the program what it is. Attorney Susan Cariaga, Vice President of SETBI; Dr. Lourdes C. General, President of the University of Southeastern Philippines; and the students’ families and friends that helped them reach this goal in their life.

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