Committed to Maintaining Safe Custody
Safe custody is one of the most important areas of work of the Correctional Services Department (CSD). United as one, all correctional staff are steadfast in duties to ensure public safety, and maintain security, order and discipline of correctional facilities for persons in custody to reflect on their wrongdoings in a safe and secure custodial environment. The Department has been enhancing its institutional facilities, strengthening data analysis and developing smart prisons. Through upgrades in its hardware facilities and the implementation of the departmental directions for strategic development, the Department is committed to ensuring a secure, safe, humane, decent and healthy custodial environment from the inside out.
United to Fight the Virus
Despite the rampant COVID-19 epidemic, all correctional officers worked in unison with fearless professionalism and remained committed to duties as usual to ensure a secure and safe custodial environment. A “Three-tier Medical Response System” has been put in place since 2011 to prevent the spread of any infectious diseases within correctional institutions in a systematic manner, and to make immediate response to and notification of any cases of infection. The system was devised with reference to the infection control measures of the Hospital Authority and other countries in consultation with the Centre for Health Protection (CHP) of the Department of Health (DH). In the light of the development of the epidemic, the Department promptly adopted a series of preventive measures, including conducting virus testing on persons in custody upon admission and arranging them for isolation and observation, enhancing the use of protective gear, arranging for every visitor to undergo pre-screening of body temperature, installing protective partitions in official visit rooms to separate visitors and persons in custody, distributing masks to staff members and persons in custody, etc. in order to reduce the risk of transmitting the virus and safeguard the health of the staff and persons in custody.
Besides, advanced anti-epidemic technologies and equipment have been introduced, including “Infrared Thermometer Robot”, “UV Disinfection Robot”, “CleanTech System”, “Disinfection Fogging Machine”, “Steam Cleaner” and “High Efficiency Particulate Air Filter”, etc. to strengthen epidemic prevention and the disinfection work. In the light of the development of the epidemic, the Department also enhanced the cleansing work in institutions, and set up a Cleansing and Disinfection Task Force to coordinate the epidemic prevention efforts in various institutions, such as performing testing and thorough disinfection regularly with the use of various types of sanitising equipment in different areas of institutions, including the reception offices, visit rooms, centre hospitals, day rooms and dining halls for persons in custody, staff quarters and rest rooms, escort vehicles and cell holding units in courts to enhance environmental hygiene.
Moreover, the Department, after liaising with the Electrical and Mechanical Services Department (EMSD) in mid-July, promptly installed UVC lights in the official visit rooms of Stanley Prison, Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre and Lo Wu Correctional Institution on a trial basis in the end of July for use at night in the official visit rooms for disinfection, in a bid to reduce the chance of the staff and persons in custody being infected with the disease. The installation works were completed in October. In view of the good trial results, such UVC lights will be installed in the official visit rooms of the remaining correctional facilities in phases.
In response to the strong appeal from the Government for members of the public to reduce social contact and maintain social distance to protect themselves and others during the epidemic, the Department has installed several sets of new equipment for conducting video visits in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, which allow visitors to opt to conduct video visits to persons in custody at a designated place outside the institution, thereby reducing the visitor flow in the institution and the risk of spreading the virus.
In 2020, sporadic cases of persons in custody tested positive for COVID-19 were reported in correctional institutions. The Department, upon the advice of the CHP, arranged for the staff of the relevant institutions and about 7 000 persons in custody in Hong Kong to take COVID-19 testing in September 2020. Finally, all the specimens were tested negative.
Several sets of new equipment for conducting video visits have been installed in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre.
To fight the COVID-19 epidemic, the Departmental Administration Unit provided staff with hygiene protective items such as filter masks. Documents to be despatched to institutions were also disinfected to lower the risk of infection.
Since the occurrence of the large-scale social events in 2019, the Department has anticipated that a large number of law-breakers, including radicals, will be admitted to correctional institutions for engaging in the social events. Any rise in the penal population will increase the risk of large-scale riots in institutions and pose possible threats to the institutional order. To address the potential risks, the Department has made early preparation by redeploying resources to free up more space for accommodating the additional persons in custody, assisting frontline staff and the management to be psychologically prepared for the challenges and instructing them to manage those persons in custody according to the principle of equality. Besides, the Department has enhanced its capability to combat riots by maintaining high vigilance, strengthening the intelligence network, expanding the establishment of the Regional Response Team (RRT) and enhancing equipment. As in the past, the Department has been making its best endeavours to maintain good institutional order and discipline, so that Hong Kong can remain one of the safest cities in the world.
The Department has always had zero tolerance for illicit acts such as persons in custody inciting others to act against the institutional management, group fights, provoking correctional officers, etc. In 2020, the RRT were deployed to carry out four large-scale operations against illicit activities by persons in custody at Tai Lam Correctional Institution, Lo Wu Correctional Institution and Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre (twice) respectively in order to ensure a secure and safe custodial environment.
In March 2020, in response to the collective actions planned by some persons in custody in Tai Lam Correctional Institution to express their dissatisfaction with the enhanced requirements on the cleanliness of cells and personal hygiene, the Department deployed a reinforcement team to the institution to conduct raids on target persons in custody.
Upon receipt of intelligence about some persons in custody in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre planning to incite other persons in custody to engage in collective actions against the management to express dissatisfaction with the strengthened anti-epidemic measures, a reinforcement team was deployed to the institution to assist in combatting illicit activities.
Having reviewed its operational needs, the Department introduced various new equipment for use by the RRT, including foldable arm shield developed by the Department, tactical shotgun, anti-riot revolver, pepper sponge round, submachine gun, portable liquid jet, etc., with a view to strengthening the law enforcement capability of the well-trained RRT for more effective, efficient and safer crisis management.
Besides, the Department has made arrangement for the Cape Collinson Correctional Institution which suspended operation in late 2020 to become the temporary “Regional Response Team Training Base” in order to enhance the physical, tactical and anti-riot training for RRT members.
In the past, persons in custody awaiting trial were allowed to consume alcoholic beverages under the Prison Rules. Such stipulation, being in force for more than 160 years, had been a cause of acts of indiscipline, such as persons in custody behaving in a riotous manner while drunk, provoking staff, committing self-harm, fighting, or transacting alcoholic beverages without authority, etc., which would seriously disrupt the order of institutions. To effectively reduce the cases of persons in custody behaving in a riotous manner while drunk in institutions, the Department decided to allow persons in custody awaiting trial to only receive or purchase malt liquor, cider or wine which are alcohol-free with effect from 10 August 2020, in order to protect the personal safety of correctional officers and persons in custody.
Managing Persons in Custody with Diverse Needs
One of the focuses of the Strategic Plan of the Department is to address the diverse needs of persons in custody. In order to assist frontline officers in obtaining a good understanding of the special needs of persons in custody and tackling the possible management difficulties in the course of their daily work, the Department has compiled various practical handbooks for reference and compliance by staff members. The Department will compile more practical handbooks in future according to actual needs to further assist frontline officers in managing persons in custody with special needs.
Meal Arrangement for Persons in Custody
The Department reviews from time to time the meal arrangement for persons in custody in consultation with the DH in order to comply with the existing international guidelines on meal provision. The Department has proactively adopted the “1 High 3 Low” principle (i.e. low-sugar, low-fat, low-salt and high-fibre) to ensure plain and wholesome food is provided to persons in custody. Starting from 1 January 2021, the Department raised the quality of food in various dietary scales and narrowed down the differences between them, including providing uniform weight of meat in various dietary scales, replacing boned fish with fish fillets, and reducing the amount of sugar, milk powder and oil, etc.
The Security Sub-unit under the Quality Assurance Division (QAD) has been monitoring the activities of persons in custody with the use of various security strategies, and combatting acts of indiscipline and illegal acts by launching search operations of various scales to ensure the stability of correctional institutions. Moreover, the Security Sub-unit has been combatting the smuggling of contraband into correctional institutions to ensure a drug-free environment for persons in custody. In 2020, there were 14 cases with seized drugs, in which all of the dangerous drugs were successfully seized. Besides, as at 31 December 2020, the Security Sub-Unit conducted 181 joint search operations, 9 339 special search operations and 142 night raid operations in various correctional institutions.
Under the QAD, there is also the Inspectorate Sub-unit, which is responsible for conducting systematic and quality inspections of correctional facilities to ensure departmental policies are followed, rules and regulations duly complied with, approved procedures and standards consistently maintained, and resources put to good use to enhance efficiency. In the past year, the Inspectorate Sub-unit conducted a total of 4 full inspections, 30 thematic inspections, 17 follow-up inspections, 8 security inspections and 16 surprise visits in various correctional facilities.
Optimising the Complaint Mechanism
In recent years, the Department has encountered unprecedented challenges, including organised and planned malicious allegations against the CSD, and even acts challenging the authority of the Department. These acts aimed to undermine the authority of the Department and the confidence of correctional officers. Facing all challenges without fear, the Department will handle each complaint systematically with reference to its years of experience and according to the principle of equality.
The Complaints Investigation Unit (CIU) is an independent establishment appointed by the Commissioner of Correctional Services to handle and investigate all complaints within its purview expeditiously, thoroughly and impartially under the ISO Quality Management Systems.
The CIU strives to complete each complaint investigation within 18 weeks. For checks and balances, the Correctional Services Department Complaints Committee (CSDCC) is established to examine the findings of the CIU and decide the outcomes of investigations. It is chaired by the Civil Secretary of the CSD (a civilian staff), with members including a Chaplain, the Assistant Commissioner (Quality Assurance) and other senior officers in CSD Headquarters.
Complainants who are dissatisfied with the investigation outcomes of the CIU may appeal to the Correctional Services Department Complaints Appeal Board (CSDCAB). The CSDCAB, which is chaired by the Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Services and comprises non-official members who are familiar with the operations of the CSD (including Justices of the Peace and religious persons), is responsible for handling appeals against the investigation outcomes endorsed by the CSDCC and making final decisions on the appeal cases. Its independence ensures that all appeal cases are handled impartially.
Most of the correctional institutions have been in operation for decades. To keep pace with the times, the Department has been working closely with the Architectural Services Department (ArchSD) and the EMSD with a view to implementing practicable measures to enhance the facilities inside correctional institutions progressively, having regard to the design and security needs of individual institutions.
Moreover, with a view to enhancing security and meeting operational needs, the Department has been replacing its ageing security facilities progressively. Funding approval has been obtained from the Legislative Council (LegCo) for the installation of an Electric Locks Security System (ELSS) to replace the old system of manually-operated locks at most of the passageways, cells and relevant facilities of Stanley Prison and Tai Lam Centre for Women (non-redevelopment areas). Besides, non-vented gates will be replaced with electric grille gates. The works project at Stanley Prison involves the installation of about 2 300 electric gates and about 5 000 closed circuit television (CCTV) cameras. Commenced in 2018, the project is being carried out in phases and is expected to be completed by the end of 2025. The works project at Tai Lam Centre for Women (non-redevelopment areas) involves the installation of about 90 electric gates and about 130 CCTV cameras. Commenced in 2020, the project is being carried out in phases and is expected to be completed in the second quarter of 2021.
Besides, funding approval has been obtained from the Finance Committee of LegCo for the installation of digital CCTV systems in 17 institutions. The relevant works commenced progressively in various institutions in 2020, including the installation of about 500 CCTV cameras in Pak Sha Wan Correctional Institution and the installation of about 400 CCTV cameras in Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre. It is expected that the level of security of the institutions will be further enhanced upon completion of the works.
To keep abreast of the times, the Department is committed to building an integrated and sustainable correctional system. A Strategic Plan was formulated in 2018 which serves as a blueprint for the Department’s future development. With an innovative mindset, the Department will promote the modernisation of correctional facilities through the proactive development of the “Smart Prison” protocol. It also strives to enhance the efficiency of custodial operations and the level of security through the application of technology and process optimisation. Moreover, effort has been made to allow persons in custody to manage their daily personal matters with the use of technological systems, thereby enhancing their self-management ability and facilitating their re-integration into society.
The “Smart Prison” comprises four major systems, namely the Security and Monitoring System, the Operation and Management System, the Persons in Custody Self-management System and the Staff Capacity Enhancement System. Over the past three years, the Department, in close collaboration with different stakeholders such as the EMSD, the ArchSD and the Office of the Government Chief Information Officer, has conducted more than 40 trial technology projects covering different areas in various correctional institutions. Positive results have been achieved in various fields such as the Video Analytic Monitoring Function, the Robotic Monitoring Function, the Movement and Location Monitoring Function and the Persons in Custody’s Integrated Intelligent Communication System.
The new generation of the “Video Analytic Monitoring System” can detect abnormal behaviours of persons in custody, thus strengthening law enforcement and supervision by correctional officers.
Intelligent Robotic Monitoring System.
Operated with the use of “smart wristbands”, the “Movement and Location Monitoring System” assists correctional officers to monitor and track more accurately the real-time locations of persons in custody in the institutions. Besides, the “smart wristband” is also equipped with the functions of health signs detection and emergency calling, which enable correctional officers to handle medical emergencies more swiftly.
Persons in custody can access a series of systems in the “Persons in Custody’s Self-management System” through the use of a “smart wristband”.
Having regard to the trial results of different technology projects and the geographical environment and operational needs of Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution (TGCI), the Department created a brand new management model for TGCI through the integration of multiple systems, turning it into the first “Smart Prison” in Hong Kong. The conversion project at TGCI provided valuable experience and laid a solid foundation for the long-term development of “Smart Prison” in future. The Department will continue to actively explore and develop different technology projects, under which smart elements will be kept introducing to modernise facilities, and humanised management mode will be adopted to improve the working condition of correctional staff and streamline the burdensome daily routines which demand considerable physical exertion, so as to enhance the operational efficiency of correctional institutions and provide a safer, more secure and harmonious custodial environment.
Strengthening Data Application
Apart from the application of new technologies in correctional work, the CSD has been drawing up indicators for major jobs, and regularly compiles statistical data for reviewing the management of correctional institutions and evaluating the effectiveness of various rehabilitation programmes. Besides, the Department is planning the establishment of a comprehensive data platform in order to collect data from different information systems for analysis and study by the management. Besides, the CSD has been proactively participating in the Government Data Open Plan. Since 2019, the Department has already published 15 statistical indicators concerning correctional work and an additional 12 indicators will be published in February 2021.