New chief vows to tackle prison overcrowding

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 31 August, 2006, 12:00am

Ageing institutions to be redeveloped and expanded

To combat overcrowding in the city's prisons, the Correctional Services Department will continue to redevelop and expand ageing institutions, the new prisons commissioner vowed yesterday.

Kwok Leung-ming, who took up the post of Commissioner of Correctional Services last month, said 10 of the city's 24 prisons were more than 40 years old and needed revamping.

As well as updating facilities in the penal institutions, the redevelopment of prisons will give the Correctional Services Department an opportunity to ease the long-standing overcrowding problem, Mr Kwok said.

Men's maximum-security prisons in Hong Kong have 12 per cent more occupants than they were designed to hold, while women's prisons have 26 per cent more, with Tai Lam women's prison housing more than double the number of prisoners it was originally meant to accommodate.

Mr Kwok, speaking at Cape Collinson Correctional Institution, said dealing with overcrowding in prisons was a 'big challenge'.

'Most of our correctional facilities are quite old by now. We have around 10 which have been in service for more than 40 years,' he said.

'We will redevelop some of our existing institutions. After Lo Wu, we hopefully will think about Chi Ma Wan and develop it into a modern facility, housing multimedia rooms and counselling rooms.'

One prison due to undergo extensive redevelopment is the Lo Wu Correctional Institute, which will house 1,400 prisoners - 1,200 more than at present - and which is expected to start taking inmates in 2010.

Lo Wu will incorporate three institutions - two medium-security and one minimum-security facility - described by Mr Kwok as a 'mini centralised prison'.

The Legislative Council's Finance Committee granted funding for the prison redevelopment in June. Work will begin in April next year.

After plans to create a super-prison in Hei Ling Chau were shelved in 2004 following public opposition, the department turned to a policy of revamping existing prisons.

After the Lo Wu redevelopment is completed, the department intends to turn its attention to Chi Ma Wan Correctional Institution, which houses 470 inmates at present but will house more than 1,000 when redeveloped.