Taitung Prison has become overcrowded because too many people convicted of drunk driving are opting to do time behind bars rather than pay fines, Taitung County officials said yesterday.
The prison has a capacity of 345 inmates, but the number of inmates reached approximately 500 recently as the number of people convicted of drunk driving surged, prison warden Chen Chin-feng (陳進豐) said.
“[They] chose to be locked up instead of paying fines,” he said, because they could not afford the fines.
Officials said the economic downturn was likely the reason why fewer people were choosing fines over jail time. At the same time, there has been an increase in the number of people convicted of drunk driving because Taitung police have stepped up enforcement.
In one case cited by Taitung County officials, a man surnamed Wang (王) was stopped by police while riding a motorbike on June 24. His blood alcohol concentration was 1.64mg per liter, far above the legal limit of 0.55mg.
Wang confessed and received a sentence of four months in prison without probation.
NO JAIL OPTION
In another case, a woman surnamed Lin (林) was stopped on the night of June 30 while driving a motorbike with a blood alcohol concentration of 0.63mg.
Lin was referred to the Taitung Prosecutors Office. She confessed to drunk driving and agreed to the sentence requested by prosecutors, 45 days in prison without probation.
Prison officials said that if the trend continued and the prison is unable to handle the rising number of inmates, offenders convicted of drunk driving will be fined without the option of serving time instead.