Reviewing the work of the Correctional Services Department today (February 7), the Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Sin Yat-kin, said he expected that the long-standing problem of prison overcrowding could be completely resolved.
He noted that the average daily penal population in 2012 was 9 247 and the occupancy rate stood at 81 per cent, representing a decrease of 4 per cent from the figure of 9 658 in 2011.
Since the penal population has continued to decrease over the past few years, coupled with measures by the Department to reshuffle inmates including the amalgamation of Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre with the adjacent ex-Lai Chi Kok Correctional Institution to increase its penal places from 1 084 to 1 484, the overcrowding problem of reception centres the Department faced in 2011 has been greatly relieved. In addition, the partial redevelopment of Tai Lam Centre for Women will be completed in 2016 to provide 108 additional penal places and improved facilities.
Mr Sin said, "It is expected that the long-standing problem of prison overcrowding can be completely resolved by that time."
On the other hand, among the 29 correctional facilities currently in use, six of them were converted from buildings for other purposes. Ten of them have been in operation for 40 years or above and the number will be increased to 15 five years later.
Mr Sin said the Department was proactively implementing redevelopment or improvement works to upgrade the outdated facilities to meet the modern-day needs of correctional services.
On discipline and order in correctional facilities, Mr Sin said, "Many persons in custody are obedient and are determined to rehabilitate. However, some individuals tend to get involved in misconduct from time to time, thus affecting prison discipline and the safety of others. We will certainly spare no efforts to combat such acts of indiscipline."
In 2012, there were 3 362 disciplinary cases in penal institutions with 2 315 persons in custody violating prison discipline. Among them, 229 breached discipline three times or above while the number of times inmates were disciplined for being involved in gambling-related activities was 146. The number of seizures of dangerous drugs in penal institutions was 158 cases last year, representing a significant increase of 26 per cent over 2011.
To strengthen the security of penal institutions and prevent the smuggling of drugs by internal body concealment, the first X-ray body scanner was put into trial use in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre at the end of last year. During the trial use, 1 451 persons in custody were searched and three of them were discovered to have concealed contraband in their body. The new scanner has been put into full use in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre since January 28, 2013. The Department has plans to install X-ray body scanners in other penal institutions, including Pik Uk Correctional Institution, Lo Wu Correctional Institution and Tai Lam Centre for Women.
To help the smooth reintegration of persons in custody into society after release and turning over a new leaf, the department has proactively provided market-oriented vocational training for them. In this financial year, a total of 1 474 training places are provided for soon-to-be discharged persons in custody, representing an increase of 10.5 per cent as compared with last year. Furthermore, in response to the manpower demand in the construction industry, the Department will collaborate with the Construction Industry Council to introduce two new courses, i.e. Timber Formwork Skill Course and Bar Bender and Fixer Skill Course, in Tong Fuk Correctional Institution and Tai Lam Correctional Institution respectively this year.
To improve the arrangements for urine specimen testing, the Department is setting up a Urine Specimen Collection Centre adjacent to Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre and it is scheduled to commence operation in the first half of 2013. The new collection centre will be operated by staff outside the Rehabilitation Division who will be responsible for collecting and processing urine specimens of supervisees who were ex-drug addicts. The collection centre will be equipped with video recording facilities to monitor and record the whole collection process to ensure compliance with stipulated procedures.
In a bid to further encourage inmates to quit smoking, a "smoke-free prison zone" was put on trial in Tung Tau Correctional Institution last year. With the hard work and motivation of the institutional staff over the months, all the persons in custody concerned were willing to abstain from purchasing cigarettes and smoking, and made up their mind to quit smoking. On January 1 this year, Tung Tau Correctional Institution was officially designated as the Department's first "Smoke-free Penal Institution", which only accommodates non-smoking male adult persons in custody. During the year, more "smoke-free prison zones" will be set up in other penal institutions to promote a non-smoking culture.
On integrity management, Mr Sin said that apart from setting long-term policy objectives, the Department had strategically extended the scope of integrity management, stepped up integrity training for staff, implemented the Integrity Ambassadors Programme and organised diversified activities to promote integrity.
On community education and crime prevention, Mr Sin pointed out that more than 21 000 young people participated in activities under the Rehabilitation Pioneer Project in 2012, including educational talks, the Personal Encounter with Prisoners Scheme, youth forums, visits to penal institutions and the Hong Kong Correctional Services Museum, to encourage and educate young persons to be law-abiding, stay away from drugs and support rehabilitation.
"This year, we will continue to enhance the scheme by arranging for members of the education community like teachers and principals to visit penal institutions. Through these visits, we hope to increase their understanding of the judicial system and correctional work of Hong Kong, with a view to helping them pass on correct knowledge to students during classes," Mr Sin said.
Ends/Thursday, February 7, 2013
Issued at HKT 16:00
The Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Sin Yat-kin (centre), today (February 7) leads directorate officers to brief the media on the department's work over the past year and the year ahead.