Fri, May 01, 2015 - Page 3 News List

Luo mulls release of some prisoners

By Jason Pan  /  Staff reporter

Minister of Justice Luo Ying-shay (羅瑩雪) yesterday confirmed that the ministry and the Executive Yuan are assessing the prospect of a general sentence reduction for prisoners, but opposition legislators and other commentators said the idea was a mistake.

Luo said that the Executive Yuan has asked the ministry to examine the possibility of cutting jail time for prisoners, while minimizing the impact on society.

She was responding to questions by Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Lu Hsueh-chang (呂學樟) at a meeting of the legislature’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee.

Lu first proposed the move to President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九) on April 15, to coincide with this year’s events commemorating the 70-year anniversary of the end of World War II, and also to alleviate prison overcrowding.

Under Lu’s proposal, jail terms for minor offenses and lighter sentences are to be cut, leading to the release of some prisoners, while inmates over the age of 65, would also be freed, but the clemency would not extend to those who had been convicted of serious crimes.

However, critics said the proposal was misguided.

Judicial Reform Foundation chief executive Kao Jung-chih (高榮志) called it “a rash and ill-considered proposal.”

“How would commemorations for the end of World War II have anything to do with the situation of Taiwan’s judiciary system and correctional facilities? This is just ridiculous,” Kao said.

“If the move was aimed at the prison crowding situation, then it should look at those serving life terms and long sentences. Luo was approaching the issue the wrong way. She seemed not to understand the main issues at correctional facilities,” Kao said.

Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Huang Wei-che (黃偉哲) criticized Ma and the KMT for advancing the proposal.

“People will think it is in preparation for next year’s elections. Or maybe the sentence reduction is for Ma’s own consideration with an eye on possible criminal proceedings against him when he finishes his presidential term next year,” Huang said.

DPP Legislator Wu Yi-chen (吳宜臻) said she was concerned what the impact of such a move would have on society.

“In our nation’s experience on general amnesties and sentence reductions, the recidivism rate was high, especially for those with lighter sentences.” she said.

The proposal to reduce jail terms would not achieve any positive outcome on the rehabilitation of criminals and it would not mitigate the prison overcrowding situation, she said.

“The government must examine the high rate of recidivism among released criminals. There is also the issue of ‘restorative justice’ for victims and their families. There are also societal concerns for public safety and a rising crime rate. If these issues are not addressed, then the move shows the actions of an irresponsible government,” Wu said.

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