Revamped jail gives inmates new lease of life

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 15 July, 2006, 12:00am

A former juvenile prison reopened yesterday as the city's first full-time vocational centre for adult prisoners about to be released.

The one-time Lai Sun Correctional Institution on Hei Ling Chau can provide training for up to 260 male inmates.

It offers courses, including mechanical skills, food and beverage services, computers and hairdressing, to inmates aged 21 and over with less than 18 months to serve.

Commissioner of Correctional Services Kelvin Pang Sung-yuen said it was important to direct offenders, especially younger ones, back into society.

'For offenders aged between 21 and 35, it could be the biggest harm if they cannot reintegrate into society, but the biggest gain if they can be steered into a normal life,' he said.

Participants who pass the courses will obtain certificates issued by authorities in the trades in which they have acquired skills.

Wo Chai, 21, one of the first 120 trainees, is taking a course to become an assistant in a Chinese kitchen.

'I understand the difficulties of finding a job in the market,' he said. 'But the training provides me with work experience, which gives me confidence.'

He said inmates were very interested in the courses. 'Many of us want to join the training centre. We want to learn and reintegrate into society,' he said.

Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Services Kwok Leung-ming said the department had plans to develop more centres, which would also cater for offenders aged under 21.

Mr Kwok acknowledged overcrowding was serious in prisons, particularly women's prisons, but should be eased by the opening of the $1.3 billion Lowu jail.

Work is due to start next year and finish in 2009. The jail will be able to house 1,400 inmates.

'The problem is serious at maximum security prisons. But when the Lowu Correctional Institution is established, some inmates from those prisons could be transferred. There will also be female facilities at the Lowu institution,' he said.