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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - A prison by any other name . . .

A prison by any other name . . .

A guard watches over the gate outside Prey Sar prison
A guard watches over the gate outside Prey Sar prison in 2009. Tracey Shelton

A prison by any other name . . .

Prisons across the country will soon be referred to only as “correctional centres” to change a public perception that they are places where people are simply locked up, the Ministry of Interior announced yesterday.

Nuth Sa An, secretary of state at the ministry, said the change in name would underscore that the government was focusing on providing prisoners with the skills needed to return to society.

“We have the idea of changing the term ‘prison’ to ‘correctional centre’ … because the main thing is we don’t want them leaving prison to commit more crime,” he said at the launch of the government’s 2014-2018 prison strategy in the capital.

Sa An said the change in name, however, is more than just a PR stunt and skills training will be a priority.

“If we don’t pay attention to this problem, they will commit more crime,” he said, adding that prisons already offered training in tailoring, painting, computing and other skills.

In reponse to the announcement, Am Sam Ath, technical supervisor for human rights group Licadho, said it was worth calling detention facilities “correctional centres” only if they really did give prisoners the chance to rehabilitate.

“It’s a good term, because if someone does something wrong, he must be brought in for correction and given training for their future return to society,” he said. “If someone is in prison doing nothing, they’re more likely to commit more crime when they’re released. Correctional centres must provide skills training.”

Licadho remains concerned about conditions in prisons across the country, Sam Ath said, citing Correctional Centre 4 in Pursat province, which offers little training.

Yesterday’s prison strategy launch included an announcement that four new prisons – or correctional centres – are being built in Ratanakkiri, Takeo, Oddar Meanchey and Pailin provinces.

Sa An also promised that prison directors would be more accountable for violence within a prison, saying “all prison directors must be responsible if there is a problem”.

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