November 06, 2023
Setting its sights on solving the chronic congestion that has plagued the country’s jails and detention centers, the Justice Sector Coordinating Council (JSCC), composed of the Supreme Court (SC), the Department of Justice (DOJ), and the Department of the Interior and Local Government (DILG), is set to hold the National Jail Decongestion Summit on December 6 and 7, 2023 at the Diamond Hotel in the City of Manila.
The Summit seeks to make a serious dent on jail congestion nationwide by bringing together key stakeholders, experts, and justice sector actors from across the nation, along with international partners, to devise comprehensive strategies that prioritize sustainable solutions for the reduction of inmate populations in correctional facilities.
Amid growing concerns about the adverse impacts of overcrowding on the criminal justice system, which is presently estimated to be at the rate of 386%, or an overcrowding of 70% of the detention facilities of the Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), the Summit will provide an essential platform for collaborative discussion, innovative idea sharing, and the exploration of evidence-based practices. Addressing the root causes of overpopulation and implementing effective measures to alleviate the strain on correctional systems are among the primary objectives of this crucial gathering.
The Summit will host a diverse array of panel discussions, workshops, and presentations, offering a comprehensive analysis of the challenges and opportunities associated with the decongestion efforts.
Notable speakers and participants at the Summit will include the distinguished principals of the JSCC, namely Chief Justice Alexander G. Gesmundo, Secretary of Justice Jesus Crispin C. Remulla, and Secretary of the Interior and Local Government Benjamin D. Abalos, Jr.; legal experts, advocacy groups, and representatives from relevant government agencies who will contribute their insights and expertise towards the development of sustainable and equitable solutions.
The National Jail Decongestion Summit is expected to be a significant step forward in fostering a more just and effective criminal justice system, ensuring the protection of individual rights, and promoting the overall well-being of our communities.
In connection with the Summit and in observance of this year’s 28th National Correctional Consciousness Week, Chief Justice Gesmundo visited Persons Deprived of Liberty (PDLs) at the National Bilibid Prison – Medium Security Camp in Muntinlupa City on October 27, 2023, and, together with DOJ Undersecretary (Usec.) Raul T. Vasquez, at the Pasay City Jail on October 29, 2023.
During their visit at the Pasay City Jail, Chief Justice Gesmundo acknowledged the difficulties being faced by the PDLs, particularly the deficiency in facilities and space within the prisons. The Chief Justice also shared the Court’s plans to conduct the Summit in coordination with the JSCC.
“Here, the Supreme Court, the Department of Justice, and the Department of the Interior and Local Government shall collaborate to identify the root causes of prolonged detention in jails, which contribute to prison overcrowding. We aim to establish new policies and initiatives that shall expedite the processing of criminal cases and alleviate jail congestion,” said the Chief Justice.
For his part, DOJ Usec. Vasquez emphasized that the presence of the JSCC principals at the Pasay City Jail and their engagement with the PDLs “served as a beacon of hope and a promise of renewed possibilities.” He remarked: “This action underscores their commitment to rehabilitation and reintegration, fostering a sense of optimism and potential for new beginnings among the PDLs.”
DILG Secretary Abalos had earlier pledged the DILG’s full commitment to addressing the issue of jail congestion. He said: “We are one with the Supreme Court’s commitment to reform the conditions of persons deprived of liberty. Treating PDLs humanely reduces crime and recidivism because this gives the PDLs a chance for genuine rehabilitation before their re-entry into society. We are ready to collaborate with the Supreme Court to achieve a fair and equitable criminal justice system.”