Wed, May 17, 2017 - Page 3 News List

Toughened parole rules urged for mentally ill

CONCERNS:A DPP legislator said mentally ill defendants should have to undergo counseling and be certified as fit before the time they serve can be counted for parole

By Chen Wei-han  /  Staff reporter

A Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) lawmaker yesterday called for tougher parole regulations for mentally ill prisoners amid outrage over what some see as a light sentence for Wang Ching-yu (王景玉), who last week was convicted of the murder a four-year-old girl in March last year.

The Shilin District Court found Wang, 34, guilty of the murder of the girl, surnamed Liu (劉), who was nicknamed “Little Light Bulb” (小燈泡).

Wang was convicted of intentional homicide of a child and the judges in his case cited international human rights conventions against “cruel or inhumane punishment of defendants with disabilities or suffering from mental disorders” in deciding not to sentence him to death.

Instead they handed down a sentence of life imprisonment and deprivation of civil rights for life.

The court said that Wang had been diagnosed with schizophrenia and other mental disorders.

DPP Legislator Lin Chun-hsien (林俊憲) said he would propose an amendment to the Criminal Code to stipulate that mentally ill prisoners complete psychological therapy and be deemed mentally fit before the time they serve in prison can be counted toward their parole.

Defendants given life sentences are eligible for parole after serving 25 years, and Wang could be released on parole when he is 60, which would be akin to releasing “a killing weapon” back into society, Lin said

The lawmaker said the draft amendment would target people who are convicted for crimes punishable by death, but escape the death penalty due to their mental health.

It would require them to serve at least 25 years in prison after they complete the necessary psychological therapy in order to qualify for parole, he said.

There is a 10 percent likelihood that prisoners released on parole will reoffend, Lin said.

“If the victims of first-time offenders can be said to be victims of bad luck, the government is to blame if people are attacked by repeat offenders who have been released on parole,” Lin said.

The Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections is required to inform local neighborhoods and law enforcement authorities when a mentally ill prisoner is being released, but that is all the government can do at present to prevent repeat offenses, Lin said.

The lawmaker asked the ministry to increase the requirements for parole eligibility for mentally ill prisoners serving life terms.

However, the ministry said inmates sentenced to life are eligible for parole after they serve 25 years, but that does not guarantee they will be paroled, and only those who are determined to be mentally stable are released.

“A parole review board reviews the severity of the offense, the mental condition of the inmate, post-crime behavior and risk of reoffending, and in cases involving serious violence or a high risk of reoffending, the review will be very strict,” ministry official Yu Li-ling (游麗鈴) said.

The ministry would evaluate the feasibility of Lin’s proposed amendment, Yu said.

Wang attacked Liu with a clever in front of her mother in Taipei’s Neihu District (內湖) as she rode her bike toward a MRT station, decapitating the girl.

He was immediately apprehended by passersby and some nearby residents.

The randomness and the brutality of the murder shocked the nation.

Additional reporting by staff writer

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