The government will break ground on two new prison facilities in Oddar Meanchey and Pailin provinces next month in a bid to tackle a mounting overcrowding problem in the country’s jails, said Kuy Bunsorn, director-general of the General Department of Prisons, on Friday.
The decision comes amid concerns from rights groups that the country’s teeming prisons are unable to house inmates to a proper standard.
“We recently got money from the Ministry of Finance for the construction of new prisons in Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces, so the groundbreaking ceremonies will begin in January 2014,” Mr. Bunsorn said, referring to some $700,000 allocated by the Finance Ministry for the task.
The population capacity of prisoners at the two facilities has yet to be decided and the bidding process for the construction contract is ongoing, he said.
Currently, prisoners in both provinces are being kept in makeshift detention facilities, Mr. Bunsorn said.
“Two temporary detention facilities have been created in Pailin and Oddar Meanchey provinces, where more than 100 prisoners in each province have been placed in temporary detention cells,” he said.
A source said last week that the prisoners in Oddar Meanchey are currently stuffed into cells at a police station for up to 24 hours a day, with only about 0.5 square meters of space each in which to sit.
Mr. Bunsorn said the situation is only a temporary solution, while in Pailin, a government theater is currently being used to house inmates.
At the start of a two-day workshop that began Thursday, the prisons’ department was advised by the U.N. Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to make the alleviation of prison overcrowding one of its priorities as it begins its next five-year strategic plan.
At present, there are 22 prisons and four correctional centers housing 14,697 prisoners across the country.
Providing feedback to the prisons’ department during the workshop on Thursday, the OHCHR said it noted a 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.”
The number of pregnant prisoners and inmates with children has also increased.
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