Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Priority must be reform not just punishment - Parole system working..

It is good that we have started using the 'parole system" - whereby persons of good behavior are permitted to be outside the prison confines working and living. Of course, if they violate any of the conditions or are 'naughty', they will be sent back to prison.

There is also other forms of 'punishment' that should be considered and incorporated into the law. Community service is one. House arrest is another (there are devices to ensure that the person so sentenced stay within the area) - this would be good for younger persons.

Objective of sentencing should be reform - not only pure punishment. Reform is so much better in the long term as the prisoner would be re-entering society after serving the prison term. Would it not be better that the prisoner has been reformed - hence less chances of committing crime again.

In China, even when it comes to the death penalty, after 2 years from being sentenced, the 'condemned's ' sentence is commuted to a prison term. Judges also have the power to specifically order suspended dead sentences - i.e. so that there can be a review in 2 years to evaluate and possibly commute it to a prison term.

But Malaysia is so rigid - judges do not even have the option when it comes to sentencing in some cases. If convicted, in some case, the only sentence available is death. We really need to get rid of these 'mandatory sentences' set by the Legislative arm of government. The Legislature should only set minimums and maximums, and leave it to the Judge to decide on the actual sentence to be handed down, which should be based on the facts and circumstances of the case.

Prisoners on parole numbering 777 have successfully served their time outside the prison walls since the system was introduced 18 months ago, said Prisons Depart-ment director-general Datuk Zulkifli Omar.

Saying the success rate was very high, he added that only 20 of them were thrown back into prison for breaching the rules and that 193 convicts were still under parole.

He said a total of 990 convicts were eligible for parole under the system that was introduced in July 2008.

Asked if the system had helped reduce over-crowding, Zulkifli said eight of the 31 prison institutions in the country were still over-crowded.

“Eligibility for parole is limited to those who have served half their sentence,’’ he said after accompanying Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye to the Kajang Prison Complex here yesterday.

To further check prison overload, plans are in the pipeline to introduce a new prison system catering to specific categories such as remand cases, convicted cases, women and juvenile, he said.

He also noted that one-third of the prisoners were foreigners and 50% of the cases involved breaking immigration rules. “We have 35,103 prisoners nationwide, of which 10,800 are foreigners.’’

Meanwhile, Lee said the parole system was good to sensitise the public and potential employers to accept rehabilitated convicts.

“Through the system, convicts would be given a chance to prove their performance at work.. “Otherwise, under normal circumstances, employers tend to immediately reject applicants who are ex-convicts,’’ he said.

He also called on parents and the community to keep an eye on ex-convicts and give them the moral support for rehabilitation.- Star, 20/1/2010, New parole system proves to be successful

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