Correctional Services Department (CSD) staff members worked tirelessly in 2009 so the department could face up to new challenges and achieve its operational goals throughout the year, the Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Kwok Leung-ming, said today (January 28).
Speaking at a press conference to review the work of the department, Mr Kwok pointed out that the Voting by Imprisoned Persons Ordinance, which came into effect last October, provided for the practical arrangement for prisoners to register as electors, becoming "electors in custody", and then vote in public elections. The department had spent a lot of time and effort to implement this new law and special arrangements to facilitate voting by remanded persons in the District Council by-elections in March, June and September 2009 had been satisfactory to all parties concerned.
On other new ordinances enacted by Government for which CSD had committed full support, Mr Kwok said, "In accordance with the Race Discrimination Ordinance, the department has introduced appropriate measures to ensure that prisoners receive no disparity in treatment and no discrimination on grounds of race or nationality."
"These measures included the publication of an information booklet for prisoners and remands, translated into some 20 different languages, and relevant training courses for staff."
"The Disability Discrimination Ordinance offers similar protection for people with disabilities. Accordingly, improvements have been made in our facilities and service for such prisoners. Meanwhile, the CSD has initiated smoking-control measures in line with the Smoking (Public Health) Ordinance, even though correctional institutions are technically exempted from the limitations on smoking under that ordinance," he said.
On the department's rehabilitation service, Mr Kwok said good progress had been made to alleviate overcrowding and provide new and improved facilities and services for the purpose of aiding the rehabilitation of prisoners.
"The relocation of the Lai Chi Rehabilitation Centre at Tai Tam Gap in May was successfully completed, relieving overcrowding in our male rehabilitation centre. The next important milestone will be the completion of the new Lo Wu Correctional Complex later this year, which will provide significant and long-awaited relief to our overcrowded female institutions.
"The launch of the new Industries & Vocational Training (I&VT) Section last February has heralded a new era of our rehabilitation services. The I&VT Section, now part of the Rehabilitation Division, provides gainful industrial work to prisoners as well as developing and supervising vocational training. We aim to provide prisoners with a diversified set of skills that will strengthen their employability and self-reliance upon their release," he said.
The commissioner said the department had continued to maintain close relations with other penal authorities in the region, sharing ideas and furthering the mutual development of quality prison operations.
"A seminar on the rehabilitation of sex offenders, jointly organised by the CSD and Caritas-Hong Kong, was held in February 2009. Delegates from government departments and non-government organisations in Singapore, Malaysia, Beijing, Guangdong, Guizhou, Macau and Hong Kong exchanged useful experiences and views on how best to improve the rehabilitation and management of sex offenders," he said.
On the grade structure review for disciplined services grades, Mr Kwok said the department was pleased to note that recommendations of the review were implemented in December. "It is a fitting reward for the hard work and dedication of our staff," Mr Kwok said.
"We are also very proud to receive the "Caring Organisation Logo" from the Hong Kong Council of Social Service for the fourth year running. This award recognises the valuable contribution of correctional staff make to Hong Kong society, both in our day-to-day official duties and in the wide range of off-duty charitable activities and community service work."
Looking ahead, Mr Kwok was confident that all members of the department would continue to refine and improve the correctional services in order to build a safer, more inclusive society in Hong Kong.
Ends/Thursday, January 28, 2010
Issued at HKT 15:51