From Sept. 1, convicted felons sentenced to six months or less in prison could be released on probation and allowed to do community service instead, the Ministry of Justice said yesterday.
Such convicts would provide supplementary labor in social services and charity work, the ministry said.
Regulated by an amendment to the Criminal Code (刑法) passed by the Legislative Yuan earlier this month, the plan would reduce public spending and alleviate overcrowding in the country’s prisons, officials said.
The ministry estimates that about 1,000 inmates on probation would work in social service organizations each year, translating into more than NT$800 million (US$23.67 million) in free labor.
However, the program is seen as likely to challenge the penal system’s capacity to supervise convicted criminals serving alternative prison terms.
“There will not be enough prosecutors and probation officers to oversee these people,” said Liu Cheng-wu (劉承武), a chief prosecutor with the Taipei District Prosecutors’ Office.
Against this backdrop, Liu said, the prosecution would open the program to first-time offenders and those convicted of economic crimes, but not to repeat offenders, drug dealers, or people convicted of violence or abuse.
While social service organizations welcomed the plan, they expressed reservations over whether such felons could serve as good social workers.
Lin Chih-chia (林志嘉), chairman of the nonprofit Child Welfare League Foundation, said the convicts would have to be given special training before being allowed to work at any social service organization.
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