Sat, Feb 28, 2015 - Page 1 News List

Prison warden demoted after MOJ probe

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Kaohsiung Prison warden Chen Shih-chih is pictured on Wednesday in Kaohsiung.

Photo: Chang Chung-i, Taipei Times

Kaohsiung Prison warden Chen Shih-chih (陳世志) and two other senior officials were removed from their positions and demoted following a Ministry of Justice report that found them culpable for mishandling a deadly hostage siege at the prison.

The ministry released its assessment report on the Kaohsiung Prison siege late on Thursday night, which provided new information and eyewitness accounts.

Aside from being demoted, Chen, along with deputy warden Lai Cheng-jung (賴政榮) and Guard and Control Section head Wang Shih-chang (王世倉), each received a major demerit.

The report came two weeks after the 14-hour siege at Kaohsiung Prison on Feb. 11 and 12, which culminated in the apparent suicides of six inmates and left many questions as to what had happened.

Although reprimands were meted out to a total of 23 prison officials, the report’s main focus was on Chen and his two deputies, Lai and Wang.

Agency of Corrections director Wu Hsien-chang (吳憲璋) was also given a major demerit, while deputy director Chiu Hung-chi (邱鴻基) was given a minor demerit.

Delivered by Deputy Minister of Justice Chen Ming-tang (陳明堂) on Thursday night, the report painted a dramatically different picture from the initial Feb. 13 report, which portrayed Chen and his deputies as heroes who made courageous efforts to foil the attempted jailbreak.

“Through the first 30 minutes, warden Chen did not know anything serious was happening in the prison, and carried on with his inept leadership. The command structure and communication links broke down, and he was not on top of the situation as it developed. None of the deputies or supervisors reported to the warden during that time to inform him of what was happening,” the report said.

“This led to lost opportunities to contain the events and resulted in a major crisis at the prison. It is clear that warden Chen is unsuitable for the senior post, and he has been demoted to a section chief position at the Agency of Corrections,” Chen Ming-tang said.

Critics and media said Chen Shih-chih has gone from “hero to zero,” as the report has shown him to be “an incompetent, bungling prison chief” who was taken hostage at gunpoint after he heedlessly rushed to the scene, and then pretended to “sacrifice” himself by offering himself in exchange for the hostages who were taken earlier.

The report also pointed to other blunders and bad decisionmaking that led to the situation going out of control.

The report said Chen Shih-chih acquiesced to the prisoners by ordering two getaway vehicles to enter the prison and was found to be carrying a handgun when he was released unharmed, but he had denied this when asked by reporters.

The report represents embarrassing backtracking on the initial report — endorsed by Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) — which lauded Chen Shih-chih and his deputies for “displaying courage to shoulder their responsibilities” and “handing the situation with befitting appropriateness.”

Democratic Progressive Party Legislator Kuan Bi-ling (管碧玲) last night said the prison officials should not just be demoted and given demerits, but should be fired and prosecuted.

She added that Luo should resign over her handling of the affair.

Taiwan Solidarity Union Legislator Chou Ni-an (周倪安) also demanded Luo’s resignation.

“This is another big scandal, following last year’s bribery probe of imprisoned tycoon Gary Wang (王令麟) at Taipei Prison last year,” Chou said. “Luo should apologize to the public and resign.”

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