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You’re booked!

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The new building at Prey Sar prison that is set to house a library for inmates, the first of its kind in Cambodia.

Prisoners at Phnom Penh’s Prey Sar prison will be the first in Cambodia to benefit from a new prison library programme that aims to rehabilitate offenders through education.

Hok Sothik, director of education organisation SIPAR, said the prison’s new US$30,000 library would be opened in the coming month, stocking books on a wide range of subjects.

“This is the first project that SIPAR has done in a prison,” Hok Sothik said.  “We are getting ready to put the 5,000 books that have been transferred to the library on to the shelves.  They cover a variety of subjects such as general knowledge, culture, agriculture, history and health that we think will be good for them to read.”

Hok Sothik hopes the Prey Sar library will improve prisoners’ knowledge, reduce boredom in prison and help inmates to understand current affairs.

He said SIPAR had worked in conjunction with the Ministry of Interior for a year to build and stock the library at the prison.

The organisation has also trained two prison guards to initially work as librarians, managing the books and library use, but they eventually plan to train prisoners to manage the facility.

Heng Hak, director of the General Department of Prisons, said yesterday the library was an important source of education for prisoners at Prey Sar and would help them learn how to read.

“It is a way of changing prisoners’ habits from thinking about crime to enjoying reading and it will reduce how much they think about crime because the books will teach the readers how to be a good, moral person who can live in society,” he said.

Heng Hak said the prisoners could choose to read the books in the library, or in their cells.  

Klot Dara, director of Correctional Centre 2 at Prey Sar prison, said the prisoners would have a limited amount of time they could spend in the library and a reading program for inmates would be prepared in the future.

SIPAR is a non-government organisation based in France and Cambodia and aims to improve the futures of young people and combat poverty by improving people’s knowledge.

While this is the organisation’s first prison library, it has already established 210 libraries in Cambodia in cooperation with the Education Ministry.

SIPAR plans on establishing similar libraries in other prisons if the project is successful and they can secure programme sponsors.

There are more 14,000 prisoners serving time in 25 prisons over the country.

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