Manila (Philippines), 17 February 2022—The United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC), with support from the Australian Government, facilitated a tabletop exercise for prison and jail officers in a bid to make correctional and detention agencies more resilient amidst the pandemic via digital meetings.
Senior management and senior operational staff from the Bureau of Corrections (BuCor), Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), and Lanao del Sur Provincial Jail were convened for the Tabletop Exercise (TTX): Harmonizing Public Health Emergency Response in the Philippine Correctional System. The activity aimed to help improve their management capabilities during a health emergency or crisis.
Participants engaged in a realistic simulated scenario to discuss their roles, identify areas of cooperation with other agencies (government and non-government), and set risk mitigation strategies in various emergency scenarios.
UNODC Senior Policy Advisor Olivier-Georges Lermet opened the activity as he thanked the participation of BuCor, BJMP, and provincial jail officials and staff and underlined the role of the UN to help member states in beefing up capabilities of their institutions of justice.
Chief of BJMP JDir. Allan S. Iral echoed Lermet’s emphasis on working together not just to mitigate the current COVID-19 crisis but also to build capability to prevent and respond effectively to future health crises.
He promoted multi-stakeholder convergence because, “We can only do so much in our efforts at PDL transformation. This is why we reach out to fellow organizations for help because changing lives must be done not singlehandedly by only one agency but collaboratively by as many stakeholders as there can be.”
This, he further says, is crucial in addressing the daunting challenge of managing 126,299 persons-deprived-of-liberty (PDLs) under the agency’s custody while mitigating risks brought about by the pandemic.
UNODC Consultant and Australian National University senior research fellow Dr. Clarke Jones and Dr. Raymund E. Narag, Associate Professorof the Southern Illinois University facilitated the simulated exercises. Participants were asked to identify roles, responsibilities, and chain of command for key correctional staff and external support; set clear protocols in place for working with other agencies (police, fire services, medical services, etc.); ensure detailed processes in effectively responding to a particular emergency; and ensure communication linkages between prisons and external support before, during and after any crisis.
Meanwhile, BuCor Assistant Secretary Gabriel P Chaclag, upon conclusion of the workshops, laid down critical next steps which include the massive health screening of PDLs coupled by an increased hiring of healthcare personnel and improvement of health facilities in all operating prisons and penal farms, continuous training and development for jail and prison employees, and completion of vaccination of both PDLs and staff.
UNODC Associate Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice Officer Dai Tanaka closed the activity and expressed the continued commitment of the UNODC to deliver valuable assistance to development partners in connection to the Strengthening the Management of Violent Extremist Prisoners and the Compliance with the Nelson Mandela Rules in the Philippines and in the context of the COVID-19 Pandemic or the Prisons PVE Project.
Following the rapid needs assessment (RNA) conducted in 2021, the tabletop exercise engages relevant authorities to collate strategic policy recommendations and identify necessary institutional arrangements for a Harmonized Infection Prevention and Control strategy.