The General Department of Prisons has begun construction on a new prison in Prey Veng province’s Takor commune, roughly 3 km away from the current French colonial-era prison, which has fallen into a state of disrepair, officials said this week.
Var Yan, Prey Veng prison chief, said the project broke ground early this month, starting with the construction of concrete fences ringing the 4-hectare plot.
“Prey Veng prison is quite ruined and fragile,” Mr Yan said. He added that there is severe overcrowding in the old prison, with 320 inmates held in the 0.5 hectare, 180-capacity compound.
The prison department plans to start building detention cells in mid-January in cooperation with the Cambodia Criminal Justice Assistance Project, Mr Yan said. It is expected that construction of the six planned buildings, including a juvenile detention center, a women’s detention center, a workshop and a visiting and legal center, will be completed in 2012.
According to Heng Hak, general director of the General Department of Prisons, new prisons have been built in four other provinces over the past two years: Banteay Meanchey, Kompong Thom, Siem Reap and Preah Vihear. Mr Hak said the new prisons were a part of the government’s commitment to providing prisoners with larger cells and more facilities. Both Mr Hak and Mr Yan declined to name the private companies contracted to build the prisons.
“We are trying to transform prisons from a place of detention into a place for rehabilitation and vocational training,” Mr Hak said, adding that plans were in progress to build two further prisons in 2011, in Ratanakkiri and Pursat.
“The new perception of constructing prisons is focusing on inmates’ psychological manner on how to rehabilitate them,” he said. “Then they can easily start a new life when they are out of detention cells.”
“Also, overcrowding of prisoners is still a major problem which is why the swaps are important, because the new prisons are built in larger compounds.”
It is estimated that there are more than 140,000 inmates currently held nationwide, said Liev Mauv, deputy director-general of the General Department of Prisons.