In Cambodia’s overcrowded prison system, space is a luxury few prisoners can afford.
But for the women and children at Prey Sar’s Correctional Centre 2 (CC2) – the Kingdom’s biggest facility for women and juveniles – there might soon be a little more room to breathe.
Medecins San Frontieres and the Ministry of Interior’s General Department of Prisons (GDP) on Wednesday inaugurated two new buildings meant for the facility’s mothers and young children.
The group are among the most vulnerable to infectious diseases such as tuberculosis which spread easily in cells that can be packed at twice their capacity.
“Before, children and pregnant women were sheltered in three rooms in the prison’s health post,” said Dr Karina Cantizano, MSF prison project coordinator. “But there, they would be mixed with inmates with TB and HIV-infected patients.”
The buildings – which contain four 10-square-metre cells and a play area for children - cost $25,000 and were funded by the MSF. They will isolate young children and their mothers from the sick and infirm.
“Especially for children, tuberculosis can be fatal. It is also dangerous for adults but at least the disease takes a longer time [to weaken them],” Dr Cantizano added.
Statistics from the MSF show about four per cent of prisoners at CC2 are infected with TB – some six times higher than the regular population. Currently, one child at CC2 has TB while another is supected to have contracted it.
There are 509 women and 161 minors housed at the 300-person capacity centre – including seven pregnant women and 20 mothers with children under the age of five, according to rights group Licadho.
“We hope that with this new building, it will help reduce the overcrowded conditions in CC2,” said Kuy Bunsan, GDP general director. The GDP has promised to relocate the prisoners by Monday, but there are fears the buildings might be misused for “VIP prisoners” .
“The facility is good if it is used for mothers and children, not for rich prisoners [who use money to buy their way in],” Nget Sokun, Licadho’s prisons project supervisor, said.