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Overcrowding, dirty conditions push Kampot jail to crisis

Overcrowding, dirty conditions push Kampot jail to crisis

As many as 60 inmates are stuffed into each 7-by-15-metre cell, leading to health problems as increasing numbers of criminals arrive

A SURGE in inmates in Kampot prison has led to severe overcrowding and mounting health problems, including malnutrition, prison and provincial health officials said Thursday.

"We've seen a large increase in the prison population since early 2008," said prison chief Toch Banarith, adding that the facility now houses 265 inmates, including 13 women.

"The main problem is sanitation," Toch Banarith said. "Conditions become unsafe and unhealthy when you have so many people living in one room. The smell is nearly unbearable."

In particular, several prisoners suffer from tuberculosis, skin infections and hypertension, said Lim Kaing Eang, chief of Kampot's provincial health department.

Most prisoners, he said, also suffer from malnutrition.

Prison cells at Kampot measure seven metres by 15 metres and generally house as many as 60 inmates, the warden said, adding that when the temperature gets too high, prisoners are allowed outside for fresh air.

Toch Banarith said the prison does its best to provide a healthy environment for prisoners.

Prison treatment

Apart from the 1,500 riels it spends on average for each inmate's food per day, the prison allows inmates to grow vegetables and play sports to maintain good health.

"We provide treatment for any medical problems [affecting prisoners], and we have doctors that come each month to monitor prisoner health," he said.

But Sao Neny, a human rights researcher with the Cambodian rights group Licadho, said some prisoners have started suffering from numbness in their limbs because they do not get enough exercise.

"Many inmates rarely leave their small cells," Sao Neny said, adding that the prison does nothing to ease the overcrowding that has pushed the facility into crisis.

"It is the policy of Kampot prison never to transfer prisoners out to facilities in other provinces," Sao Neny said.

Prisons across the Kingdom suffer from under-funding, officials say.

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