Humane approach to prison-leave requests

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 30 May, 2002, 12:00am

I refer to your report 'Prison officials stop drug offender from attending father's funeral' (South China Morning Post, May 27). As Tam's case has been resolved satisfactorily after we received fresh information from his sister to support his application, I would prefer not to discuss this individual case in this letter.

I have to say, however, the Correctional Services Department has never adopted a 'callous' and 'inhuman' approach in the handling of applications for leave of absence by inmates and prisoners as quoted in your report.

Statistics speak for themselves. Between May 2001 and April this year, our 24 institutions received a total of 106 applications for leave of absence from inmates and prisoners and 95 were approved, representing a 90 per cent approval rate.

Among these applications, 19 were in connection with attendance at funerals and 12 of them were approved. Of those not approved, five were from inmates in Stanley Prison who were in the higher risk ratings and required the highest security considerations. Other applications involved visiting relatives who were seriously ill, sitting for examinations, attending job interviews, outward bound courses and marriage registration, etc.

We have the social responsibility to take into proper custody of those committed by the courts on the one hand and provide the best possible services to help them rehabilitate on the other. In approving applications for leave of absence, these are always in our mind and each case will be considered on its own merits. We will continue to strike a balance between security and an inmate's rehabilitative needs as well as other humanitarian factors in granting leave of absence.

The ultimate aim of rehabilitation is the offender's successful re-integration into society. Your readers can rest assured that any factors that are conducive to attaining this goal will not be taken lightly by us.


for Commissioner of Correctional Services