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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Amid overcrowding, prison numbers rise

Amid overcrowding, prison numbers rise

Prison overcrowding continues to be a major issue plaguing Cambodia, Ministry of Interior officials said on Monday, as they revealed a 3 per cent increase in population at correctional facilities and prisons nationwide.

In 2014, the number of prisoners rose from 14,702 in 2013 to 15,165 in 2014, according to the Interior Ministry. A report released last September by rights group Licadho put the estimated capacity of the Kingdom’s prisons at just 8,500 inmates.

“The number of the detainees hiked by 3.07 per cent compared to 2013 figures, showing that correctional centres and prisons across the country are still facing overcrowding,” said the MoI’s General Department of Prisons director-general Kuy Bunsorn.

Cambodia currently has four national correctional centres, 23 municipal and provincial prisons and one military prison.

Overcrowding has long been a problem in these facilities, with the Kingdom’s prison occupancy at 179 per cent of capacity by September 2014, according to the Licadho report.

“In the prisons that we monitor, overcrowding has definitely gotten worse,” said Licadho director Naly Pilorge. “One of the biggest causes . . . is with the criminal justice system and that the decision to imprison a suspect before trial tends to be automatic.”

The MoI said it is attempting to address the overcrowding problem, pointing to new penitentiaries built last year in Pailin and Oddar Meanchey.

But it’s an approach that is doomed to fail unless systemic problems are faced, Pilorge insists. “[A]s long as the courts continue to rely almost entirely on pre-trial detention, it is hard to imagine any significant reduction in prison overcrowding,” she said.

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