Home > Local News, Politic > Prison numbers creep up

Prison numbers creep up

Minister of Interior Sar Kheng speaks during the annual meeting of the Department of Prisons in Phnom Penh today.
Prison officials at the Ministry of Interior said today that the
number of prisoners increased by 5.1 percent in 2010 compared with a
year earlier, putting further pressure on the Kingdom’s overburdened
correctional facilities.
Kuy Bunson, deputy director of the
ministry’s Department of Prisons, said that as of December 15, 14,043
prisoners were interned in the Kingdom’s jails, 718 up on the previous
year.
Of these, 6,836 were incarcerated during the course of 2010.
Speaking
at the department’s annual meeting in Phnom Penh today, Kuy Bunson said
that due to severe overcrowding in Phnom Penh’s prisons, 669 prisoners
were transferred to provincial facilities during 2010.
Overcrowding has long been a problem in the country’s penal system, which has an official capacity of about 8,000.
Kuy
Bunson said that in order to alleviate the problem, the government is
pushing ahead with plans to expand the country’s overall prison
capacity, with new prisons to be established in Pailin and Oddar
Meanchey provinces.
They will supplement recently completed facilities in Banteay Meanchey and Prey Veng.
He
said the department has also established Correctional Centre 4, its
first agricultural detention centre, in Pursat province, constructing
four provisional wooden detention buildings that can accommodate 280
detainees.
Officials hope that CC4, opened in January 2010, will eventually hold 2,500 inmates.
“In
order to address the small space problem in detention, detainees have
participated in industrial and agricultural programmes,” he added.
Nut
Sa An, a secretary of state at the Ministry of Interior, said the spike
in the number of inmates posed major health concerns and made it
difficult to control prisoners.
“Small space in detention results
in many issues which impact the implementation of the detention reform
strategy, such as [prisoners’] mental and physical health,” he said.
In
July, local rights group Licadho reported that Cambodia’s prisons could
be the most overcrowded in the world inside a decade without
broad-based reform of the country’s criminal justice system.
The
report stated that even substantial increases in capacity over the next
few years will do little to stop the overcrowding plaguing the
country’s penal system.
Am Sam Ath, a senior investigator for
Licadho, said some prisons designed to hold 600 prisoners were housing
as many as 1,500, contributing to the spread of communicable diseases
such as tuberculosis.
“This problem impacts on the detainees’
mental health and blood vessels, which causes them to die from high
blood pressure,” he said.
Last year’s increase of 5.1 percent is
down on the 14 percent average annual growth in the prison population
over the past five years.
But even assuming a five percent annual
growth rate – something it described as conservative – Licadho’s report
stated that the prison system will still be at 165 percent of capacity
in 2019.
Am Sam Ath said the problem derived in part from the
justice system, which remands large numbers of suspects in custody
rather than granting them bail. Last year, the Department of Prisons
reported that about a third of the prison population was made up by
defendants awaiting trial.
“If the judges didn’t grant some
criminal defendants bail … the building of four correctional centres in
Pursat or Pailin provinces would still not be enough for those
prisoners,” he said.
Phnom Penh Post
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Categories: Local News, Politic
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