Fourth National Prison To Reduce Overcrowding

Construction of a fourth national prison could begin this year in Pursat province to reduce prison overcrowding, a Ministry of Inter­ior official said Monday.

“Overcrowded prisons are a serious matter we are facing,” Prison Secretariat Director-General Heng Hak said, adding that older prisons “are too small.”

Cambodia’s three national prisons and 21 provincial and municipal prisons held 10,903 inmates in 2007, according to the Ministry of Interior. In some cases rooms designed for 12 people hold 20, Heng Hak said, adding that the new prison would eventually hold 2,000 prisoners.

Heng Hak said he didn’t know the total cost of the project or when construction at the proposed location in Phnom Kravanh district’s Phteah Rong commune would be completed.

The Cambodia Criminal Justice Assistance Project, which is funded by the Australian government, is assisting with the project, he said.

CCJAP Team Leader Larry Proud declined to comment on the project because he said it is so new. CCJAP has worked on several up­grades to national prisons, according to the CCJAP Web site.

The new prison will train inmates on computer programming, electronic skills and pig and crop farming, Heng Hak said.

“If we can train and educate them to have proper skills it will help reduce the occurrence of crime in our society,” he said, adding that inmates who farm will be able to earn money while in prison.

Chheav Hourlay, a prison re­search­er with the local rights group Licadho, said by telephone Monday that he had some concerns about the transparency of incomes that in­mates would earn.

He said the government needs to ensure that incomes are declared and there are no irregularities in distributing them.

Prisons also need to provide men­tal health assistance and classes on morality, Chheay Hourlay said.

“We are hopeful that prison directors get the idea to provide not only training,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)

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