This is the audio recording from the webinar ‘Compassion, justice and the law in the time of the COVID-19 crisis: Powerlessness and injustice inside jail and prison facilities’ that took place on Tuesday 5 May 2020. Note: the introduction of this audio has been slightly modified for a smoother listening experience and the Q&A session has been removed for privacy reasons. Please do not reproduce without permission.
The worldwide explosion of COVID-19 has highlighted the way law could – or could not -respond speedily to the demands of crises. The unprecedented impact of the pandemic has galvanised core human values of compassion and solidarity as governments and institutions have been stretched to their limits. The role of ‘compassion’ in law remains ambiguous and there has not been a universally accepted understanding of compassion as a principle in law or how it is applied in mitigating suffering. The release of detainees and prisoners during the crisis has become an emergent worldwide practice in mitigating the spread of the disease in jails and prisons. Reducing the jail and prison population is a mechanism to observe social distancing, a key protocol to avoid infections. Old, sickly and low risk detainees and prisoners are released on humanitarian grounds.
However, the Philippine Correctional System, with an average congestion of 500% and considered the most congested in the world, has not entertained such releases. Despite numerous infections among the ranks of the personnel and People Deprived of Liberty (PDLs or inmates), judicial and correctional authorities have maintained that there are no legal bases for such releases.
Based on auto-ethnographic account of advocating for the release of the PDLs that generated official and unofficial narratives with correctional officers, judges, prosecutors, defense lawyers, legislators, media and Non-Governmental organisations, this webinar documents the legal, structural and cultural challenges that hinder efforts toward the humanitarian and compassionate release of PDLs. The webinar will also discuss policy recommendations.
About the speakers
Dr. Raymund E. Narag is a Professor in the Department of Criminology and Criminal Justice, School of Justice and Public Safety in Southern Illinois University. He studies correctional and judicial policies and practices in the Philippines and how these translate to prolonged trial detention and jail overcrowding. Dr. Narag regularly visits the Philippines to conduct training and mentoring programs among correctional and court actors.
Dr Imelda Deinla is a Research Fellow at the School of Regulation and Global Governance (RegNet) at the Australian National University.
Photo: Bushfire by Elizabeth Donoghue via flikr.com, creative commons licence