Control Yuan censures agency over prison labor

CORRECTING CORRECTIONS::The pittances earned by inmates in prison work programs were not enough to cover their basic monthly expenses, the watchdog said

By Hsieh Chun-lin  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Feb 20, 2019 - Page 2

The Control Yuan has censured the Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections over its prison work programs that pay inmates as little as NT$20 per month, saying that some prisoners who have no outside means of support could not earn enough to buy underwear.

An investigation by Control Yuan members Wang Mei-yu (王美玉), Wang Yu-ling (王幼玲) and Kao Yung-cheng (高涌誠) reviewed the work performed by more than 35,000 inmates at 45 prisons nationwide.

By law, all prisoners are required to work, unless there are special circumstances such as illness, but the majority of the work should be for government projects.

However, the investigation found that 58.4 percent of work performed in prisons was for private companies, including hand-processing jobs such as making paper bags or origami lotus flowers, the Control Yuan said in a statement on Monday.

Thirty-two of the prisons are paying their inmates less than NT500 per month on average, while eight pay less than NT$200 a month, it said.

Tainan Prison in 2017 earned NT$1,180 per inmate from work done by its inmates, or NT$98 per month, and the amount inmates could earn depended on their grade level, with a grade-four prisoner receiving an average of 20 percent of the income, for a total of NT$234 per year, or NT$19.6 per month, it said.

Agency of Corrections statistics show that at least 20 percent of the nation’s 60,000-plus prisoners are unable to afford their basic living expenses, estimated to be NT$3,000 per month, the statement said.

Half of the prisoners are from middle or low-income families and nearly 13 percent of them have no family or friends they can rely on for financial support, the Control Yuan said.

Under the Constitution, the Council of Grand Justices’ Constitutional Interpretation No. 756 and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, prisoners have the same constitutional rights as other citizens, except for restricted freedom of movement, it said.

The Agency of Corrections has contravened the law by preventing prisoners from earning enough money to meet their basic needs, which is inhumane, it said.

The agency must correct the situation, and the Executive Yuan should also take steps to address the increased poverty among prisoners, the Control Yuan said.