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Empowering jail paralegals in the decongestion effort

March 30, 2017

MANILA – The Bureau of Jail Management and Penology (BJMP), with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), launched an electronic learning platform as part of its jail decongestion initiatives.

The Electronic Paralegal Learning Module (EPLM) is an interactive offline learning platform containing basic legal modules and resources. It aims to support jail paralegals’ continuing education and give them an electronic resource center for timely interventions to detainees. The EPLM is distributed in USB sticks that users can easily plug and play on their computers even without internet connection.

The EPLM will benefit more than 400 BJMP paralegal officers nationwide. This will help them monitor the cases of detainees undergoing trial, and coordinate with criminal justice stakeholders such as public attorneys, law enforcement, court staff and judges, among others.

“We developed this learning platform based on the challenges faced by our paralegals, which include lack of training and varying availability of resource materials in jails. By ensuring that our paralegals have all the necessary tools and resources, we will be able to capacitate them so they can help us process the inmates’ cases and decongest our jails,” said Jail Director Serafin Barretto Jr., BJMP chief.

The learning platform ensures paralegals in all BJMP jails access to topics such as criminal procedure, modes of early release, time allowances, alternative dispute resolution, rights of the accused, international standards, and negotiation with justice stakeholders.

In addition, the EPLM provides paralegals access to national laws, BJMP manuals, paralegal manuals and examples of written interventions that would help them facilitate timely and meaningful assistance to detainees.

The EPLM was pilot tested in 15 BJMP jails in Regions 3 and 4-A, involving 22 paralegals. It will be available in all BJMP jails nationwide in April 2017.

The ICRC, a neutral, impartial and independent humanitarian organization, has been visiting places of detention in the Philippines after World War II. It supports the BJMP in its efforts to improve the conditions of detention and the treatment of detainees.

For the past 10 years, the ICRC has been assisting the BJMP in projects aimed at providing relief to the endemic national jail congestion rate averaging at 555% as of February 2017. Jail paralegals are essential to the BJMP’s initiatives to ease the congestion of jails in the country.