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Published On: Sat, Aug 12th, 2017

Cambodia considers pilot program on alternatives to prison for some inmates

nsnbc : Cambodia’s Justice Ministry said is was studying the feasibility of a pilot program that would help ease the burden on the country’s overcrowded prisons by creating alternatives to jail. 

Cambodia_Cambodian prisonThe statement came in response to the urging of the office of Rhona Smith, the United Nations’ human rights envoy to the country. The UN as well as human rights groups have long been urging the government to cut back its use of detention, and especially pre-trial detention. Some rights organizations also stressed that pre-trial detention, in Cambodia, often is politically motivated.

Another issue is the practice of overcrowding Cambodia’s jails with more people than they were designed for. The practice is known for being correlated to a lack of safety of vulnerable inmates and not least with avoidable health problems.

Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said Rhona Smith, the U.N. envoy, proposed the pilot at a meeting with Justice Minister Ang Vong Vathana earlier this week on Thursday. “She recommended that we do a pilot program and that first we must educate the public. We choose Battambang province for the pilot program for community punishment,” Mr. Malin said. “The U.N. will support the education program.”

The spokesman said the basic idea was to allow certain criminals to serve their sentences with some sort of community service. “We will identify the type of offense and the characteristics of the offender,” he said. “If they are cruel and we let them into the community, it would be chaos.” He added, however, that it is important to offer these measures to the right candidates, and that  “if he works in the community it can help the community. The idea is to reduce inmate overcrowding and let them use their skills.”

Malin said the ministry was still studying the feasibility of such a pilot program and was also working with the U.N. on drawing up stricter criteria for the use of provisional detention.

Cambodia currently has about 25,000 inmates spread across 27 jails, according to the Interior Ministry’s prisons department. Cambodia’s latest crackdown on drug offenders has netted more than 9,000 people since January alone. In June, the director of the Cambodian Center for Human Rights, Chak Sopheap, said her NGO had received numerous reports that the sudden influx of inmates was making health conditions noticeably worse in the prisons. She said the crackdown had “pushed an already overstretched prison system to the point of collapse.”

F/AK – nsnbc 12.08.2017

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