Prison Department Told to Tackle Overcrowding

The Ministry of Interior’s general department of prisons has been advised to address prison overcrowding and transportation issues between prisons and courts as it begins to tackle its 2013 to 2018 strategic plan for the country’s jails.

The advice was given at the start of a two-day consultative workshop between the government and U.N. and NGO representatives in Phnom Penh on Thursday, which looked at the progress made and challenges that remain following the implementation of the 2008 to 2013 strategic plan for prisons.

“Significant progress has been achieved in the last five years” in terms of the passing of the 2011 Prison Law, a draft royal decree on the improved working conditions of prison staff, a sub-decree on food rations, health, rehabilitation and reintegration services, vocational programs, health services and efforts to curb overcrowding, the U.N.’s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights in Cambodia (OHCHR) said.

OHCHR’s Prison Reform Support Program also referred to “noteworthy progress” in the training of prison staff, talks about overcrowding, and more communication between prisons and courts.

“While the above successes were made, we are also facing the following challenges: Disruption of transport of prisoners to the Court of Appeal, overcrowding in prison and implementation of the law is not comprehensive and lacks depth,” OHCHR found.

Challenges facing prisons include the near-doubling of the female prison population between 2008 and 2013, “which has created challenges on the prison authorities to accommodate and manage the women prisoners in line with international standards,” OHCHR said.

Improvements are also needed in relation to “the prevalence of non-contagious disease in prison.”

“Significant improvements in the treatment of prisoners have been observed,” said Wan-Hea Lee, country representative for the OHCHR.

“However, more needs to be done in order to improve the living conditions, to enhance the effectiveness of the health services, to establish a complaints mechanism and bring all penitentiaries in conformity with the international human rights norms,’ she said.

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