Prime Minister Hun Sen has given a green light to Interior Minister Sar Kheng to set up an urgent meeting with relevant officials to come up with solutions to the Kingdom’s growing problem of overcrowded prisons.
Mr Kheng noted in a November 8 statement obtained by Khmer Times yesterday that the country’s 28 prisons are overcrowded with 31,008 inmates, of whom 22,295, or 71.9 percent, are in pre-trial detention.
Mr Kheng requested the Justice Ministry, and the country’s court presidents and prosecutors, discuss suitable solutions, one of which is having the courts speed up trials to reduce the population of prisoners awaiting trial.
“Overcrowding has posed a serious challenge to prison management and to inmates serving sentences,” Mr Kheng said in the statement.
Mr Hun Sen signed the November 8 statement on November 19, giving his approval for the meeting.Mr Kheng’s request came after the General Department of Prisons released its annual report in February showing that the prison population had ballooned by some 30 percent in 2017 to 28,414, with more than 10,000 of the system’s inmates locked up in pre-trial detention.
Interior Ministry spokesman Phat Sophanith yesterday said the date of the meeting has not yet been set.
Justice Ministry spokesman Chin Malin said some measures will be taken to address overcrowding following the imminent meeting.
“The measures will be made once the discussion is held,” Mr Malin said.
According to Mr Malin, officials are now studying ways to distinguish detainees serving their sentences from those in pre-trial detention who could be granted bail.
Sorn Keo, spokesman for General Department of Prisons, yesterday said that overcrowding affects inmates’ health and their correctional education.
“Diseases could spread from one to another inmate once they are living close to each other. It’s difficult to offer them a proper education system since we do not have enough space,” Mr Keo said. “In some circumstances, fighting occurs very often when they are all packed together.”
Mr Keo said that more prisons should be constructed while the courts should accelerate the trials of the inmates who are awaiting trial.
Earlier this month, human rights group Licadho released a report calling for the country’s judicial system to grant bail to those who are suspected of committing non-violent crimes as a solution to decrease overcrowding.
Licadho noted that a person accused of a crime can be jailed without trial for up to 22 months, and that overcrowding affects vulnerable groups.