The government is holding a National Jail Decongestion Summit on Dec. 6 and 7 in Manila to address the ongoing challenges the country’s penal system is currently facing.
In a Palace briefing, Department of Justice Assistant Secretary Mico Clavano shared that President Marcos is expected to attend the event alongside Executive Secretary Lucas Bersamin, Senate President Juan Miguel Zubiri, and Speaker Martin Romualdez.
“We hope we are able to reach the mission of the jail decongestion summit with the help of course of the UNODC (United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime) as well as GOJUST (Governanace in Justice) who will be funding the event, two-day event where we will have stakeholders, experts, and several government agencies represented,” Clavano said.
He said the facilities of both the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor) and Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP) have an average congestion rate of almost 400 percent.
The Justice Sector Coordinating Council will also ask President Marcos to certify priority legislations in Congress to improve the country’s prison system.
“These we will ask the President and Congress to make the proposed legislations as priority bills,” Clavano said.
Among these proposed legislations are on diversion of adult offenders, unified penology act, creation of the Department of Corrections and Penology, the law on re-integration and psychosocial rehabilitation, and amendment to the Recognizance Act of 2012.
Clavano said the summit will outline three proposed activities and strategies such as reducing prison admissions, increasing inmate releases upon completing their sentences, and expanding jail facility capacity.
“So, we will have short-term goals as well as long-term goals which we hope to discuss and thoroughly analyze in the jail decongestion summit,” he added.
According to a December 2021 survey, there were 199,079 inmates or persons deprived of liberty (PDLs), with approximately 179 PDLs per 100,000 people in the population.
Of these, 13,704 are females, constituting 11 percent of the total BJMP jail population.
Clavano said 70% of BJMP detention facilities are overcrowded, with an average congestion rate of 386%.
He mentioned the Quezon City Male Dormitory as having the highest congestion rate at 1,330%.
Clavano said the JSCC — composed of the Supreme Court, the DOJ, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government — will push the bills.
“It’s the first of its kind. I would consider this a legacy building event because this is the first time actors in the justice sector would join… in really addressing this very pressing issue. Only this administration ventured to solve this problem of ours,” Clavano said.
According to the Justice official, the strategy of the JSCC in decongesting prisons has been to increase the number of facilities, reduce the admission of PDLs, and raise the number individuals who are qualified for release.
“Under the National Building Code, the requirement is about 4.8 square meters per PDL which is very far from what we are seeing now in the jails,” Clavano said.