Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Reducing prison overcrowding




Reducing prison overcrowding

Reducing prison overcrowding

I write in response to the article published in The Phnom Penh Post in July entitled “Community service planned”, which revealed the Royal Government of Cambodia’s (RGC) intention to alleviate the pressure on Cambodia’s overcrowded prisons by encouraging community service for minor offences as an alternative to imprisonment.

I wish to extend my praise to the RGC for its plan and hope that the RGC will consolidate its stated intention by allocating all resources necessary to make alternative sentencing practicable.

A study of trials conducted by The Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) at the first instance courts of Phnom Penh and Kandal revealed that between July and December in 2010, of the 1,029 accused whose trials were monitored, 633, or 61 percent, were found guilty and sentenced to imprisonment.  The disproportionate rate of incarceration represented in this data correlates with the overcrowding in Cambodia’s prisons and is symptomatic of the justice system’s continued myopia in favouring incarceration over other non-custodial sentences which are readily available under the 2009 Penal Code.

The 2009 Penal Code provides judges with alternative sentencing options for offenders convicted of an offence and sentenced to a prison term of 3 years or less. Under the Penal Code judges can substitute the sentence for community work or a public reprimand, suspend a sentence or deliver a probationary suspended sentence. All of these options are available to the courts and if utilised, where appropriate, could greatly reduce the overcrowding in Cambodia’s prisons.

The prison population could be further reduced by upholding the presumption against pre-trial detention – which is enshrined in both Cambodia’s Code of Criminal Procedure and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. CCHR’s study revealed that between July and December in 2010, 660, or 64 percent, of the 1,029 accused whose trials were monitored were held in pre-trial detention. Pre-trial detention should be the exception, not the rule. If the presumption against pre-trial detention is upheld, prison overcrowding in Cambodia will be greatly reduced.

I strongly support the utilisation of all the sentencing options provided in the Penal Code as alternatives to incarceration. To ensure such measures are viable and effective, the RGC must provide adequate resources to courts, police and social service providers and those institutions must establish clear processes and procedures for monitoring adherence to non-custodial sentences.

Non-custodial sentences, where appropriate, provide a win-win solution to Cambodia’s prison overcrowding; more effective responses to petty criminal offending and a lower prison population.

Monika Mang (Senior Trial Monitor), The Cambodian Center for Human Rights

Send letters to: [email protected] or PO Box 146, Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The Post reserves the right to edit letters to a shorter length.
The views expressed above are solely the author’s and do not reflect any positions taken by The Phnom Penh Post.

MOST VIEWED

  • PM: West unfair to Cambodia

    Prime Minister Hun Sen released a message celebrating the International Day of Peace on Monday, saying that some major powers and western countries had been systemically cooperating to put political pressure on Cambodia as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Hun Sen said pressuring

  • ‘Bad news is an investor’s best friend’ – unlocking investment potential in Cambodia

    It is time to shop. Economic woes provide good pickings for investors if they know where to look The poem If, written by English Nobel laureate poet and novelist Rudyard Kipling for his son circa 1895, is widely perceived as fatherly advice for John who would

  • First ‘mobile kitchen’ in Cambodia enters service

    A catering company recently rolled out Cambodia’s first “mobile kitchen” – a $50,000 container capable of serving up to 200 people at a time. The kitchen is the brainchild of Seng Hok Heng Catering Services. At 4.4m-high, 6.8m-long and 2.4m-wide (expandable to 6.8m), the kitchen is equipped

  • PM requests Russia’s Covid vaccine

    Prime Minister Hun Sen has requested that Russia provide Cambodia with its Covid-19 vaccine after the former announced it planned on mass vaccinating its population next month. The request came on Thursday through the prime minister’s Facebook page as he met with Anatoly Borovik,

  • Kingdom, China rebut basis for US sanctions

    The Council for the Development of Cambodia, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation, and Tianjin Union Investment Development Group Co Ltd (Tianjin) have responded to US sanctions on Union Development Group Co Ltd (UDG), a Chinese-owned company currently developing the sprawling $3.8 billion Dara

  • Influenza breaks out in eight provinces

    Nearly 600 people have been infected with influenza in eight provinces in the past month, Ministry of Health spokesperson Or Vandine said. The ministry is advising extreme caution. A report released by Vandine on Saturday said the Ministry of Health observed transmissions of influenza between August 15