Sun, Nov 02, 2003 - Page 2 News List

Criminals' rehabilitation inadequate, experts say

FIGHTING CRIME Officials have called for harsher punishments after statistics revealed that 46.9 percent of people sent to jail last year were repeat offenders

By Jimmy Chuang  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's weak mechanisms for the rehabilitation of convicted criminals have created a high percentage of repeat offenders, judicial officials said during a seminar on Friday.

"These repeated offences seem to indicate that our efforts to rehabilitate prison inmates were not good enough," said Central Police University President Tsai Teh-hui (蔡德輝).

"In addition, with the high percentage of repeat offenders, we have wasted lots of public resour-ces as well," Tsai said.

The seminar on Taiwan's rehabilitation of prison inmates was jointly held by the Central Police University, National Chungcheng University and National Taipei University.

Tsai said that the first problem with the mechanism is that there were not enough rehabilitation workers, while there has been an increase in the number of inmates, including repeat offenders, in the past few years.

As a temporary measure, Tsai suggested implementing harsher punishments by amending the Criminal Code and applying stricter control measures in the review of parole applications.

Chou Chen-ou (周震歐), chairman of the Criminal Rehabilitation and Development Foundation, suggested training more professionals for rehabilitation work. He said that more and more universities and colleges have established departments related to crime prevention or criminal rehabilitation, which could solve the problem presented by the manpower shortage.

According to statistics released by the Ministry of Justice, 46.9 percent of the 19,731 inmates whose prison terms started between January and December last year were repeat offenders.

The same statistics showed that, on average, approximately 1,300 criminal cases are prosecuted every day in Taiwan. About 70 percent of these involve cases of theft.

"I will take that as a sign that our punishment for thieves is not serious enough," Tsai said.

Vice Minister of the Interior Hsu Ying-shan (許應深) said that he had first-hand experience of theft cases, because his car had been stolen and his residence had been broken into and robbed by thieves.

"I encouraged the police to crack down on those dealers who would accept stolen items before they pursue the actual thieves," Hsu said.

"Once the dealers have been removed, thieves will have trouble selling their goods. That might help reduce the total number of theft cases," Hsu said.

The minister nonetheless encouraged and praised the police for their hard work.

Hsu made public statistics regarding 25 countries' public order last year. Taiwan's police force was placed third for its percentage of solved cased. Turkey was in the first place and South Africa second.

"It means our police officers did work hard and try hard to close as many cases as possible. However, since there are still lots of complaints from the public, it also means that there is still a lot of room for us to improve," Hsu said.

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