Productive role envisaged for inmates as labourers

national November 23, 2014 01:00

By Piyanut Tamnukasetchai
The Su

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Move aims to tackle human trafficking and also overcrowding in prisons



Justice Ministry permanent secretary Pol General Chatchawal Suksomjit is ready to send well-behaving inmates to work on fishing boats for the remainder of their sentences. 
At the same time, Corrections Department chief Wittaya Suriyawong is considering allowing well-behaving inmates to work as labourers at industrial estates, starting with the Amata Nakorn Industrial Estate, to help them earn income and prepare for life after prison. 
Chatchawal yesterday said the idea to send volunteer inmates to work on fishing boats was in response to an earlier idea floated by Labour Minister General Surasak Karnjanarat and Justice Minister General Paiboon Koomchaya that aimed to tackle human trafficking.
Chatchawal said he was ready to coordinate with the Labour permanent secretary and the Employment Department to implement the idea, which would also solve prison overcrowding. 
He said the selected inmates under the scheme would have qualified for probation or would have only a short time remaining in their sentences.
They would be asked to volunteer to work on boats. The Fisheries Association would also be consulted.
“The use of inmate labour would help solve human trafficking, because the inmates will be going on a voluntary basis … After working for a while, if they are not happy, they can ask for change and return ashore [and prison],” he said. 
Wittaya said he recently discussed the proposal with the Fisheries Association so it could be implemented quickly.
Responding to Paiboon’s idea to set up prisons reserved for drug offenders only, Wittaya said of the total 320,00 inmates, 200,000 were drug convicts in the country’s 143 prisons – or 70 per cent of the total prison population.
He said that given there were only 100,000 inmates convicted of robbery, theft, murder or rape, the prisons basically housed drug inmates.
Of the 200,000 prisoners, 100,000 were jailed for being in possession of narcotics for personal use or for distribution. 
Wittaya said Paiboon had instructed the Office of the Narcotics Control Board to check the drug convict database so that categorising inmates would not be done only by the amount of drugs seized, as some big fish were caught with a small amount of drugs.
“General Paiboon also instructed the Corrections Department to find a proper way to manage prisons so the inmates’ release procedure wouldn’t be carried out irrationally,” he said. 
“As those given death sentences served only 15 to 20 years in jail and then were released, the Thai public think the law isn’t efficient. So we must build new prisons to support the inmates and separate drug convicts from other criminals.”
Wittaya said that given the existing prison personnel and condition issues, he had instructed prison chiefs to assess the risk posed by inmates in a bid to prevent fights and riots. 
He said government bonds would soon be issued to pay for construction of drug-offender prisons, with Dhanarak Asset Development Co Ltd to manage the funds and the money repaid by the government within 30 years.
Meanwhile, Chatchawal yesterday visited the Probation Department to hear about progress on the scheme to dispatch 3,000 electronic-monitoring (EM) bracelets for convicts on probation to use – such as drunk drivers or illegal taxi drivers – at 27 provinces starting from next year. 
The department used 200 EM bracelets in the pilot scheme in Bangkok and surrounding areas, he said, adding that Bt74 million was spent to rent the 3,000 bracelets. 
The provinces that will receive the device include Khon Kaen, Ayutthaya, Chon Buri, Nakhon Ratchasima, Chiang Mai, Nakhon Sawan, Phuket and Songkhla.

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