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Ministry and Red Cross discuss new ‘early release from prison’ programmes

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A prison van transports inmates in Phnom Penh. Hean Rangsey

Ministry and Red Cross discuss new ‘early release from prison’ programmes

The Ministry of Justice is collaborating with the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) to address prison overcrowding and improve legal mechanisms for conditionally releasing inmates into the community.

The collaboration was announced at a meeting between ministry secretary of state Chin Malin and Dena Fisher, head of the ICRC mission to Cambodia, on February 1.

Malin told The Post that the ICRC had raised the issue of overcrowding in prisons and called for a solution to the problem. The two sides will work together to resolve the issue by laying out conditional release mechanisms to be implemented soon, as well as disseminating knowledge to the public.

“The ministry is preparing to put non-prison sentences – including community sentences and conditional release – into place. We will work with the IIRC to prepare these mechanisms to improve conditions in our prisons,” he said.

He added that raising public awareness of these new sentence conditions would be very important as people need to accept the new concepts.

“The traditional Cambodian point of view is that prisoners should be in prison. If they are out of prison, there could be problems. There may be violence or discrimination, and society may look down on these men and women.

“We are preparing to implement conditional release, and at the same time we are educating the public so that prisoners can be integrated back into society,” he said.

Malin added that although conditional release mechanisms had not yet been put in place, the ministry had worked hard to address prison overcrowding by clearing the backlog of court cases across the country.

“We have done a lot to address prison overcrowding by increasing resources at the courts to speed up proceedings,” he said.

Am Sam Ath, deputy director of rights group Licadho, said the collaboration would be a further step in helping implement and disseminate awareness of the programme. He urged that the process be begun as soon as possible and suggested that law enforcement officials ensure transparency in the release of prisoners to avoid public criticism.

“Once this mechanism is in place, we have to implement it in a transparent and fair manner before releasing prisoners conditionally,” he said.

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