Sunday, November 18, 2007

Parole Plan : Prisons Act To Be Amended To Allow For Early-Release Scheme

PETALING JAYA: The parole system for prisoners can be expected to begin next year after amendments to the Prisons Act 2007 are passed at the current sitting of Parliament.

Deputy Internal Security Minister Datuk Fu Ah Kiow said the system was meant to facilitate the early release of prisoners for good behaviour and rehabilitate them back into society, besides cutting costs for the Government.

“It is supposed to be only for those who have shown good behaviour and are able to be rehabilitated,” he said.

“It does not apply to all prisoners and those with heavy sentences for serious crimes like murder and rape will not be considered,” he said.

The ministry was waiting for the Attorney-General's clearance on the draft before bringing the matter to the Cabinet and subsequently to Parliament.

Fu said job placement for prisoners was also among the plans.

“It will begin on a small scale. We might even have halfway houses provided in the second stage,” he added.

The proposal calls for the system to be under the purview of the Prisons Department while the parole board, which decides who is eligible, will be independent and consist of members including those from government and non-governmental organisations.

Studies in Australia, the United States and Canada have been carried out to develop the parole system for Malaysia.

“If everything is cleared, we can go ahead,” Fu said yesterday.

He said the ministry would also conduct sessions with the media and the public to explain the parole system and allay any fears.

Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye lauded the move.
“It is about time. The parole system should be introduced as soon as possible,” he said, adding that it would be appropriate for those who had not committed serious offences, especially juveniles,” he said.

Lee said a parole system for minor offenders would prevent them from being sent to jail where there was a possibility they would be influenced by hardcore prisoners and move on to committing serious crimes.

It would also save them from being stigmatised by society.

Lee added that it would also ease the congestion in prisons.

Home Ministry Secretary-General Tan Sri Abdul Aziz Mohd Yusof told Bernama that 2,000 minor offenders who met the criteria would be considered for the parole system.

“Prisoners serving light sentences of not more than a year will be considered for early release,” he said after closing a course for prison officers at the Langkawi Correctional Academy.

He also said the Public Service Department had approved 600 new posts for prison officers, besides the RM7mil allocated by the Government to carry out programmes and training needed for the new system.

Abdul Aziz said the system would reduce overcrowding at 29 prisons in the country, which currently have a total of 34,917 prisoners whilst their actual capacity was only 28,100.