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Inmate health raised during Red Cross conference

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A penal department official with the Interior Ministry raised concerns regarding the spread of communicable diseases and the degradation of mental health among inmates in overcrowded prisons.

The concern was raised by Lim Sokha, deputy director of the General Prison Department at the Interior Ministry, during a three-day conference being hosted by the International Committee of the Red Cross in Phnom Penh to address health services among inmates.

Mr Sokha said tuberculosis and HIV-AIDS are among the toughest diseases to combat in the general prison population.

He said that prisons across the country now have medical wards to treat patients, and that sick inmates will be sent to external health centres for additional treatment.

However, he noted that a lack of space within prisons makes inmates susceptible to communicable diseases and mental health issues.

“We are concerned about the mental health of prisoners. Many become depressed after thinking about and regretting what they had done,” Mr Sokha said. “Overcrowding also contributes to the degradation of their mental health.”

He noted that inmates who develop mental health issues are qualified for treatment, even outside of their prison.

A 2012 report published by rights group Licadho said its monitored prisons averaged about 13 percent growth in population per year and the system was on track to become the world’s most overcrowded by 2019.

Full story in Thursday’s paper

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