Sipar signed two agreements with the Interior Ministry’s General Department of Prisons (GDP) and the Police Academy of Cambodia (PAC) on Wednesday to kick off the Phase III of its Prison Library Project.
The non-profit organisation is committed to continuing the enhancement of the library network and educational services in 23 prisons and four correctional centres across the country, Sipar director Hok Sothik said during the signing ceremony marking the start of the three-year phase at the Ministry of Interior.
“In this phase, we will ensure the sustainability of the project by anchoring it in GDP’s new strategic plan, handing over the coordination of the 27 prison libraries to GDP and training its key stakeholders,” Sothik said.
He said a budget of $530,000 from the French Development Agency, Pierre Bellon Foundation and Sipar’s own funds will be used to finance the third phase.
Sothik was hopeful that the project would cultivate the reading habit among 30,000 inmates, 35 per cent of whom were expected to receive benefits from the provided educational services.
These include literacy classes and vocational training which will improve the detention conditions and help the inmates to prepare for reintegration into the society after their release.
Furthermore, Sipar envisaged that six GDP executives and 81 prison directors and deputy directors will have been trained on the coordination of the library programme and educational services.
The Prison Library Project was launched in 2012 in collaboration with GDP. The first phase saw the creation and implementation of a network of libraries in prisons across the Kingdom with financial support from the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) and the EU, among other sources.
The second phase ran from March 2016 to February this year, using a budget of $600,000.
Prom Channy, the Ministry of Interior’s Correction and Rehabilitation Department director, lauded the success of the project as reflected in the noticeable reforms in prisons.
He said GDP had managed to improve its ability to fulfil its responsibilities in the last three years.
“We could do it because of Sipar’s support in providing the spaces, repairing the libraries, donating books and training the officers to effectively manage the libraries”, Channy said.
Sothik said Sipar is committed to continuing the provision of support “as much as it can”, particularly in respect to the management of the libraries.
GDP spokesperson Nuth Savna said the Prison Library Project played significant roles in easing the tension in “crowded” prisons and improving the inmates’ mental health.
“The libraries provided a space for the inmates to improve their reading, writing and research skills due to the wide availability of books,” he said.
PAC deputy director Son Vuthy said this was his organisation’s first collaboration with Sipar in regards to library management training for the officers.
“Because of this project, we are determined to update the library information system and book database,” he said.