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Overhaul of Thai justice system required to deal with prison overcrowding

Maya Taylor

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PHOTO: Scmp.com

There are nearly 400,000 people behind bars in Thailand. 70% of the men in prison are there for drug-related offences. In the case of women, it’s 87%.

Thailand has the highest number of prisoners in ASEAN, the sixth highest in the world.

The notorious overcrowding for which the prisons are known is so bad that an inmate does not even have a metre of space in which to lie down.

The country’s prison system has space for 120,000 inmates, but is home to more than 300,000.

This was the subject being discussed in Bangkok yesterday, at a joint seminar between the National Human Rights Commission (NHRC) and the Thailand Institute of Justice (TIJ), who were considering other options for those with jail terms of less than 5 years.

TIJ director Kittipong Kittayarak blames the country’s strict drug laws, which currently mean that anyone found to have any connection to methamphetamines will be given a prison term.

He says that in 2000 and 2001, those with drug convictions were moved to drug rehabilitation centres, reducing the number of prison inmates from 240,000 to 160,000. But lack of a properly structured rehabilitation programme and failure to prioritise a public health policy to tackle the problem means it’s back.

Kittipong says a justice system that prioritised rehabilitation over retaliation would have better results in the long-term. He believes the system should enable wrongdoers to see the error of their ways and feel remorse, while providing victims with compensation, as happens with road traffic accidents.

Kittipong also suggests drug abusers and small-time dealers be separated from major drug traffickers in line with a better public health policy.

Moreover, he said, police and public prosecutors should find a better method of settling cases out of court and consider other methods such as electronic monitoring devices with limited freedom, probation or social services for petty criminals.

SOURCE: The Nation

 

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