The prison population in the country increased by nearly 30 percent in 2017 when compared to the 2016 population, an annual report by the General Department of Prisons showed yesterday.
“The prison population rose 29.21 percent compared with 2016 and that equals 6,425 people, including 662 women,” the report noted.
The prison population for 2017 was tallied in December and recorded 28,414 inmates, including 2,443 women.
General Chan Kimseng, director general of the department, said during an annual meeting yesterday that drug offenders accounted for 51.76 percent of the population, while thieves represented 18.88 percent.
Gen Kimseng said that 100 prisoners died last year, including 85 inside prison health centres and the rest in their cells due to health problems. He added that 17 inmates broke out of prison in 2017.
Mr Kimseng noted that the department only has a budget of about $0.75 per inmate for food, which leads to malnutrition of inmates. He then urged the government to increase the budget.
Lieutenant General Nouth Savna, deputy director of the department, said the spike in prison inmates could be attributed to the government’s successful anti-drug campaign, which led to thousands of arrests.
“The increase is because of the government’s anti-drug campaign,” Lt Gen Savna said.
Lt Gen Savna said an increase to the prison population like this could have consequences, including a lack of space for inmates and decreased security.
He added that prison officials should not be accepting money from the families of inmates to gain preferential treatment.
Interior Minister Sar Kheng said after the meeting that some drug users who received short prison terms may be allowed back into their communities on parole in order to decrease the population.
Mr Kheng added that he would forward the increased budget request to the Ministry of Finance.
“I support this and we will continue to discuss it,” said Mr Kheng.