Fri, Mar 10, 2017 - Page 1 News List

Ministry mulls correctional facility reform

By Jake Chung  /  Staff writer, with CNA

Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san yesterday smiles at a news conference at the Ministry of Justice in Taipei after he announced outlined the ministry’s plans for prison reform.

Photo: Chien Lee-chung, Taipei Times

The Ministry of Justice yesterday said that it was considering changes to prison policies, especially those regarding inmates’ families, to better rehabilitate prisoners and facilitate their reintegration into society after their release or parole.

The possible reforms include changes to prison facilities, making the parole process more transparent, introducing familial support, increasing the number of rehabilitation volunteers and helping inmates gain skill certificates, Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san (邱太三).

Agency of Corrections Director Huang Chun-tang (黃俊棠) said overcrowding in prisons would be addressed by expansion projects for Taipei Prison, Taoyuan Prison, Second Yunlin Prison and Bade Prison in Taoyuan.

The expansions are to accommodate a total of 4,755 prisoners in 2.31m2 cells with individual beds, he said.

Taipei Prison has 51 cellblocks, each about 19m2 to 26m2, meaning that with 16 inmates per block, each prisoner has only 1.65m2 of space, Huang said.

The expansion projects aim to eliminate overcrowding in prisons for at least four years, Chiu said.

More volunteers would be sought to carry out and improve the efficiency of individual and group rehabilitation efforts, the Ministry of Justice said.

In an effort to maintain familial relations — a key component to aid the reintegration of inmates into society — the ministry is to launch a project in which prisoners record stories for their children aged six or younger, it said.

The recordings would be made available for inmates’ family members and social welfare groups to help children cope with their fathers not being present, the ministry said, adding that the program would later be expanded to female inmates.

A number of academics and experts have been consulted in the drafting of new parole approval criteria, Chiu said.

The severity of the crime, the risk of an inmate repeating the offense and their attitude and performance during imprisonment are to be factors taken into consideration when parole applications are reviewed, he said.

The ministry said it is considering turning the current review method — in which victims and general members of the public are asked to review parole applications — into an alternative process, in which victims and social representatives would be asked to weigh in on applications via telephone or video conference.

The ministry is to allocate NT$70 million (US$2.3 million) annually to the corrections agency to have companies and organizations, such as Formosa Plastics Group (台塑集團) or Rotary International, offer courses at the prison or at alternative locations, it said.

The courses would cover more than 26 specialties, including stacker operation, baking, carpentry, pottery, electrical wiring and digital drawing, to teach inmates skills they could use to find employment upon their release or parole, the ministry said.

Correctional facilities must not only render just punishment to those who have broken the law, but also proactively re-educate them and ensure their smooth reintegration into society, Chiu said.

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