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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Small change in the big house

Small change in the big house

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Money outlawed at CC1. Guards in charge of exchange system.

The director of Correctional Center 1 outside of Phnom Penh has banned money inside

the prison and switched to specially printed coupons in an effort to curb stealing

and limit spending by prisoners.

The new "money" at Correctional Center 1.

Kim Sarin, director of CC1, which houses convicted males 10 kms outside of Phnom

Penh, confirmed that the coupon system has been in place since July.

"The change from money to coupons is to control and learn about how much the

prisoners pay per day and also to protect the security at the prison."

Sarin said well-off prisoners were spending up to 20,000 riel a day for privileges

and goods to supplement the meager 1,000 riel daily food ration allocated by the

government.

He said some inmates were stealing cash off others, causing problems within the prison

community, and the serial numbers on the coupons meant that money could be tracked

if stolen.

The new coupon system works like a small-scale foreign exchange. When friends or

family bring money to prisoners the inmates must change the cash for coupons with

guards who collect a fee of five percent.

"Yes. The guards will get five percent, but this money will be used to print

the coupons - so the coupons can't be copied."

The penalty for being caught with cash is time in solitary detention, said one recent

visitor to the prison.

While both the prison management and inmates at CC1 seem to be happy with the new

arrangement, an anonymous source involved in prisons said the measures were introduced

after an attempted prison break in March in which at least 17 prisoners were killed.

Authorities were concerned that prisoners with too much money might pay other inmates

to assist with an escape attempt at CC1, said the source on condition of anonymity.

It was in Kampong Cham's CC3 prison that the coupon system was first introduced in

2000, said Kea Sovanna, acting director of the facility.

Sovanna said the coupons were an easy way of controlling the prisoner's expenses,

adding that the coupons can only be used to buy food and a maximum of 5,000 riel

can be spent per day.

He denied reports that guards at CC3 take a 10 percent cut when cash is exchanged

to coupons, saying only that prisoners sometimes buy guards a pack of cigarettes

out of kindness.

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