Following is the translation of the speech given by the Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Yau Chi-chiu, at the Correctional Services Department (CSD) annual press conference today (February 3):
All members of the Correctional Services Department (CSD) have persistently dedicated themselves to providing safe custody and appropriate rehabilitation programmes for the well-being of society at large. They help prevent persons in custody (PICs) from re-offending after release. The objectives are to protect public safety and reduce crime. In addition, we continue to collaborate with various stakeholders to strengthen community education. Such efforts not only help rehabilitated persons re-integrate into society, but also contribute to the prevention of crime, particularly among young people.
Profile of Persons in Custody
In 2015, with the decline of the overall crime rate, the average daily penal population at correctional facilities was 8 413 persons, representing a slight decrease of 4 per cent from 8 797 persons in 2014, and the average occupancy rate was 76 per cent. Among the penal population:
(a) 80 per cent were males and 20 per cent were females;
(b) 81 per cent were convicted persons and 19 per cent were remands; and
(c) 92 per cent were aged 21 or above and 8 per cent were aged under 21.
In the same year, 147 high security risk PICs were convicted and newly admitted into our correctional facilities, representing a substantial increase of 39 per cent from 106 persons in 2014. Among them, 86 per cent had committed serious drug-related offences, and 30 per cent came from other countries.
As at December 31, 2015, more than 10,000 persons were under the management of the CSD, including 8 438 PICs and 1 991 rehabilitated persons under supervision after release. In terms of the backgrounds of the 8 438 PICs, 70 per cent were local, 12 per cent were from the Mainland, Taiwan and Macau, and 18 per cent were from other countries. Compared to the previous year (2014), the proportion of PICs from other countries increased, rising from 15 per cent in 2014 to 18 per cent in 2015, and amounting to more than 1 500 (i.e. 1 525) persons from 65 countries.
Reflecting the ageing population in Hong Kong, the penal population has also witnessed a growing number of PICs aged 65 or above over the past decade. In 2015, a total of 475 convicted PICs were aged 65 or above, representing an increase of 104 per cent from 233 persons in 2006. In order to meet their needs, in January last year, elderly PICs who meet respective criteria (such as the security category) were relocated to Tai Lam Correctional Institution, which has suitable facilities and appropriate rehabilitation programmes.
The strict enforcement of discipline and order in correctional facilities provides PICs with a secure custodial environment with regular schedules for work and rest, allowing them to reflect on their wrongdoing and to take part in rehabilitation programmes without distraction. Although most of the PICs are obedient and remorseful, some individuals tend to get involved in acts of indiscipline from time to time, thus affecting discipline in institutions and the safety of other people.
There has been no successful escape case for eight consecutive years, from 2008 to 2015. On the other hand, there has been an increase in acts of indiscipline in our institutions. Under such circumstances, the CSD has strengthened its searches in respect of PICs, including large-scale joint search operations, to combat illicit activities in institutions. In 2015, the Security Sub-unit of the Department conducted 8 038 joint searching/special searching/night raid operations in institutions, representing an increase of 42 per cent over 5 673 such operations in 2014.
In respect of actions taken by the Department against illicit activities in institutions:
(a) There were 3 671 disciplinary charges involving 2 348 PICs last year, an increase of 79 charges (2 per cent) compared with 3 592 charges in the previous year. Among these, the number of disciplinary charges involving "possessing unauthorised articles" rose significantly by 193 charges (28 per cent), from 695 charges in 2014 to 888 charges in 2015, whereas for other disciplinary charges there was a decrease of 114 charges (4 per cent), from 2 897 to 2 783.
(b) In terms of the number of PICs involved, a total of 2 348 PICs were subject to disciplinary action last year, of which 274 PICs (12 per cent) were subject to about 1 200 disciplinary charges (each of the PICs concerned having committed three or more disciplinary offences), accounting for 33 per cent of the total number of disciplinary charges.
(c) As to acts of violence, a total of 522 cases, mainly involving fighting among PICs and assaults, were recorded last year, representing a decrease of 45 cases (8 per cent) from the previous year (567 cases). Among them, 36 cases (three cases less than the previous year) were of a more serious nature and were reported to the Police for follow-up. The other cases were dealt with in accordance with internal disciplinary proceedings. There were 15 cases (one case less than the previous year) involving correctional officers being assaulted during their course of duty. Notwithstanding the decrease, the number of staff injured on duty increased from 18 persons to 29 persons.
The CSD will continue to enforce the law vigorously to combat incidents of indiscipline. The increase in such activities precisely reflects the challenges and pressures encountered by correctional officers. Without the early detection and intervention of staff and imposition of appropriate punishment on those PICs involved in disciplinary offences and acts of violence in accordance with the relevant Ordinance, the situation could have easily deteriorated. The increase has serious implications regarding the order and operation of correctional facilities, the safety of the stakeholders concerned and even upon the effective implementation of rehabilitation programmes. Therefore, we must combat all illicit acts strictly according to law and maintain discipline in institutions.
As with people in the community, some PICs have self-harm behaviour for various reasons. In 2015, there were 72 self-harm cases involving PICs (four cases more than the previous year). The great majority of these cases were discovered in time and the PICs concerned were rescued by correctional officers. Unfortunately, one PIC died despite rescue efforts. The incident has been referred to the Police for investigation and the Coroner's enquiry will follow later.
Although our correctional work has been effective and the custodial environment is safe and in good order, the associated security risks have increased, including a growing number of newly admitted Category A PICs, the number of medical escort duties remaining high and an increase in the number of disciplinary offences committed by PICs. To tackle emergencies occurring within and outside institutions and to step up such tasks as high-risk escort duties, we plan to set up Regional Response Teams under the Escort and Support Group with a view to providing more effective, prompt and tactical support at regional level.
Moreover, to strengthen the security of correctional facilities and prevent the smuggling of dangerous drugs into institutions by concealment inside the human body, the CSD introduced four low-radiation X-ray body scanners in the reception centres in 2013 and 2014. Three more scanners will be installed this year. By then, a total of seven scanners will have been installed in our (six) reception facilities, replacing most manual rectal searches.
The introduction of X-ray body scanners effectively prevents the illegal smuggling of dangerous drugs into institutions. Last year, the number of cases of dangerous drugs being found dropped by 35 per cent, from 51 cases in 2014 to 33 cases in 2015. The dangerous drugs seized were mainly heroin and psychotropic drugs, and most of those involved were persons who had just been placed under our custody. The number of cases involving dangerous drugs being concealed inside the body was 32 in 2014, and 16 in 2015.
Some correctional institutions were built a long time ago and the facilities are comparatively old. Such a situation indirectly affects the custodial environment and the effective implementation of rehabilitation programmes. Therefore, we will continue to make appropriate improvements. The partial redevelopment project at Tai Lam Centre for Women commenced in mid 2012 and is scheduled for completion by the end of this year. Between now and 2019, we will also enhance the existing closed-circuit television (CCTV) system at Stanley Prison to become a new, digital system.
Later this year, we plan to seek funding approval from the Legislative Council to install an electric lock system at Stanley Prison, and enhance the existing CCTV systems at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre and Pak Sha Wan Correctional Institution to digital systems.
We work closely with over 80 non-government organisations (NGOs) to implement diversified and appropriate rehabilitation programmes and initiatives. Our concerted efforts offer opportunities and assistance to PICs by equipping them with useful skills and education as well as building up their self-confidence, so that they can start a new life and re-integrate into society after release.
Young PICs are assisted in receiving education according to their progress and potential. They have attained good results. Last year, 20 young PICs sat for the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination. They obtained results at Level 2 or above in 94 per cent of the examination papers. Some PICs even attained Level 5** for the first time or were admitted by local universities. Meanwhile, we also provide guidance and assistance to adult PICs who are willing to pursue further studies. In 2015, adult and young PICs sat for 1 103 papers in public examinations. There was an increase of 45 per cent compared to 763 papers in 2014, with the overall passing rate rising from 72 per cent to 75 per cent. In addition, more than 500 PICs completed distance learning courses offered by the Open University of Hong Kong or other tertiary institutions. Three of them were even awarded Bachelor's or Master's Degrees.
To strengthen the employability of PICs, 20 vocational training courses are provided for young PICs and more than 40 market-oriented courses are available for adult PICs who are due for discharge within three to 24 months. Courses provided in recent years have included Dim Sum Making, Pet Groomer and Shop Assistant, Bar-Bending and Fixing, Timber Formwork Skill and Care Worker Training, and others. Last year, some 1 400 adult PICs voluntarily enrolled in vocational training courses. This year, the CSD also organised courses on Decorative Waterproof Worker Training for Renovation, Florist and Floriculture Assistant Training and Coffee House Operations, and others. Furthermore, we will continue to help PICs obtain the relevant recognition qualifications, such as the Recognition of Prior Learning on Printing, and Sewing Skill Recognition. In 2015, a total of 2 882 vocational qualification examination papers and trade tests were taken by adult and young PICs. There was an increase of 9 per cent as compared to 2 649 papers in 2014, with the overall passing rate rising from 96 per cent to 97 per cent.
The CSD also encourages employers to register as "Caring Employers" and offer job opportunities to rehabilitated persons. In December 2015, we organised a video conferencing job fair again with the Chinese Manufacturers' Association of Hong Kong and Merchants Support for Rehabilitated Offenders Committee Limited. More than 30 business organisations from 10 trades participated in the event. In mid 2016, we will again organise the Employment Symposium with a tertiary institution to further explore how to facilitate the employment of PICs after release.
Over the years, we have reached out to the community to promote rehabilitation work and seek public support for and acceptance of rehabilitated persons. Apart from regular publicity and education activities, the CSD also organised various large-scale signature programmes in 2015, including district-based publicity activities co-organised with the 18 District Fight Crime Committees such as the Thank You NGO Month, the NGO Forum, and the Award Presentation Ceremony for Volunteers of CSD Rehabilitation Volunteer Group.
In addition, our Psychological Services Section (PSS) provides services for PICs to help them correct offending behaviour and improve their psychological well-being. In this regard, the CSD and the Psychology Department of the Chinese University of Hong Kong (CUHK) have jointly conducted a five-year project on psychological counselling services for sex offenders. This project is funded by the Hong Kong Jockey Club Charities Trust. It was completed in 2015 and developed the local Risks and Needs (R&N) Assessment Tools for Sex Offenders. The project findings will enhance risk assessment and identification of sex offenders with a risk of re-offending in Hong Kong, and the rehabilitation of sex offenders (programme matching), by focusing on their rehabilitation needs. The assessment tools became ready for use on February 1 this year, both in the preparation of psychological reports and programme matching. A PSS expert and CUHK professor will provide details of the project findings later.
Community Education and Crime Prevention
On community education, the CSD focuses on disseminating to students and young people the important messages of leading a law-abiding and drug-free life as well as supporting rehabilitation under the Rehabilitation Pioneer Project (RPP). Over 30 000 participants attended various activities last year. The Department will continue to enhance the RPP to better suit their interests and needs.
The CSD launched a brand-new community education programme, "The Reflective Path", for students in September 2015. The programme, held in a mock court and the vacated Ma Hang Prison, enables students to experience the basic process of imprisonment, understand Hong Kong's criminal justice system and correctional services, and go through the journey of PICs, so that they will reflect on the heavy cost of committing crime and the importance of abiding by the law. In view of the positive and encouraging responses from schools and stakeholders, we will continue to organise the programme to disseminate these messages to more young people for crime prevention purposes.
The CSD is undergoing a peak period of staff wastage and the phenomenon will continue for a few years. For the 2015-16 year we had already recruited 35 Officers and 60 Assistant Officers II by the end of December 2015. We expect to recruit an additional 16 Officers and 200 Assistant Officers II in the first quarter of this year, so that we will have recruited a total of 51 Officers and 260 Assistant Officers II for the whole year. In 2016-17, we plan to recruit at least 50 Officers and 240 Assistant Officers II.
Although the penal population has slightly decreased, the need for medical escort of PICs has remained high in recent years. Such PICs require medical treatment at Accident and Emergency Departments due to acute illness or accidental injuries, or admission to hospitals due to illness or regular specialist treatment in outside clinics. The number of medical escort duties performed by CSD staff was 39 000 days of work on average each year between 2013 and 2015, and this workload has put tremendous pressure on our human resources.
The CSD is committed to serving the public and maintaining the safety and stability of Hong Kong with dedication and professionalism. We are thankful for the support of the public and various community stakeholders, elements which are instrumental to our work throughout the year. In the coming year, we will keep up our efforts and work with all sectors of the community for a safe and inclusive Hong Kong.
Ends/Wednesday, February 3, 2016
Issued at HKT 14:22