The Council of Grand Justices on Friday ruled that forced labor as a punishment for criminal offenses is unconstitutional and would no longer be allowed.
Four lower-court judges and 32 citizens challenged the compulsory labor provisions of the Criminal Code and the Organized Crime Prevention Act (組織犯罪防制條例), which allowed “habitual offenders” who have been found guilty of theft, possession of stolen goods or certain organized crime activities to work under supervision at correctional facilities before or after serving a jail sentence.
The provisions are intended to provide assistance to offenders by teaching them work skills or a trade, which is intended to help with their rehabilitation and reintegration into society.
Photo: George Tsorng, Taipei Times
Under Article 90 of the Criminal Code, a “habitual criminal” or anyone who “commits an offense because of habits of loitering or vagrancy, before execution of punishment, shall be committed” to perform three years of compulsory labor, which can be extended by one-and-a-half years.
Article 3 of the Organized Crime Prevention Act states that a “person initiating, hosting, controlling or directing a criminal organization must be sentenced to imprisonment for not less than three years,” and “before the execution of the punishment, he or she shall be committed to a labor establishment to perform compulsory labor for a period of three years.” Similar provisions are in the Rehabilitative Measures for Burglar and Fence Criminals Act (竊盜犯贓物犯保安處分條例).
Chief Grand Justice and Judicial Yuan President Hsu Tzong-li (許宗力) said that offenders were being punished twice for the same crime, working under nearly the same conditions as prisoners, and after the three years of labor, “they go on to serve their sentences,” but “when they are released, their learned job skills could be already out of date.”
The ruling abolishes the compulsory labor, which is served at facilities run by the Ministry of Justice’s Agency of Corrections.
The council ruled that the provisions contravened the principle of proportionality and the personal freedom guaranteed under Article 8 of the Constitution.
Although it was a majority decision, Grand Justice Wu Chen-huan (吳陳鐶) filed a dissenting opinion, while three other grand justices expressed a “partial dissenting opinion” on some aspects of the ruling statement.
Additional reporting by CNA
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