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19th February 2020
Underworld TV
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What Prison Is Like For A Convicted Drug Smuggler in the Philippines

Life inside prison isn’t as easy as some people would have you believe. Especially for those that find themselves locked up in foreign lands. An estimated 2,250 British citizens are said to be  incarcerated abroad at present, with America having slightly higher numbers at around 4,000.  

Jimmy Vastine an American national and convicted drug smuggler from the Philippines shares his living conditions via video link to UnderworldTV. Jimmy is serving 15-17 years of a life sentence for trafficking 2kgs of cocaine. A charge he has always maintained his innocence for. Vastine was sentenced to life on the 3rd of September 2018 and has been locked away for just over 9 years now. He is currently serving his time at the Bilibid Prison Maximum Security Compound in the Philippines. A gang-controlled establishment.

Before his sentence was passed, Jimmy had been in contact with UnderworldTV and wanted to share his living conditions with the world. He said he wanted to do this to help educate the public on the reality and harshness of prison life abroad,  something he describes as a ‘Nightmare’.

Jimmy Vastine with his Prison cellmates

In the photos provided, you can see Vastine regularly shares his cell with upward of 5 other prisoners, a cell being no bigger than the standard British jail cell. Jimmy has in the past been forced to cohabit with as many as 15-20 other men in similar-sized cells. This, however, is not an exclusive issue but a widespread epidemic that is present in many Asian jails. It is not uncommon for as many as 200 men to be crammed into cells built to house only 20 inmates 

It is also worth mentioning the instantly sobering Gang tattoos sprawled over Jimmy’s back. The signs are of the Asian based gang Sputnik (English translation: Super Power Unit Terrorist Nation Internal Kings), an Asian gang that is both dangerous and secretive at equal measures. But as Jimmy explained in such a hostile place where extortion, robbery and violence are commonplace survival in this explosive sepsis is only possible through  affiliation to a gang. During our talks over the years, Jimmy and his associates have seen many a war rage between various gangs inside these deadly jails. With fatality being a common occurrence during these types of riots. Fatalities which include prison staff. 
Jimmy’s back tattoo

Which brings me to another hostile inhumane prison condition by proxy – gang life. We talk of the conditions in jail and we instantly think of food, exercise and space being the zenith of our natural concerns or fears for a person locked behind the door. However, what about the conditions caused by the direct affiliation one prisoner may of necessity have with one gang or another, a gang he needed to join in order to live through his sentence? Around 15% of the American prison population are gang members, something we are seeing grow slowly and globally.

Over the past 4 years, Jimmy has spoken openly and candidly with me about gang warfare and the very real threat it presents to his day to day life. Each area of these jails is controlled by various gangs, leaving the prison, not unlike a deadly monopoly boardgame to the unsuspecting prisoner. Jimmy has said that even using the wrong water fountain could be enough to cause trouble, and more often than not it does.  Such conditions are exacerbated by the levels of corruption often seen in overseas jails.
A gang members back tattoo

Not at all surprising really when we regularly put vast numbers of offenders into cages, grown men with raging testosterone levels and a lust for adventure, a key point that almost certainly played a role in their original offending. This can be a factor in their current incarceration, as shown by Channel 4’s ‘What Makes a Murderer’.

At the time of writing, Jimmy remains in hopeful and lifted spirits as he awaits a date for his appeal, something he is optimistic of. Jimmy has served 9 years and maintains his innocence. With the input of the judicial system Jimmy hopes to be released on appeal but if this fails could be looking at further 8 years of prison. UWTV will keep you up to date with his progress.

Do you think any prisoner should have to tolerate such inhumane living conditions?

Should the International authority on human rights step in and implement changes?

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