Women's jails will stay crowded for years
Overcrowding in Hong Kong's packed women's prisons is likely to continue for years until it is eased by redevelopment of ageing jails.
Correctional Services Department figures show that the occupancy rate at the territory's six female prisons last year topped 118.9 per cent, with one, the Tai Lam Centre for Women, holding 473 inmates despite being designed for 263.
Commissioner of Correctional Services Kwok Leung-ming admitted yesterday that overcrowding persisted but was improving gradually.
'In the short term, we have turned staff quarters into women's facilities, while we have plans to redevelop the Chi Ma Wan and Chi Sun correctional institutions in the long term to increase capacity,' he said.
Mr Kwok said redevelopment of the two women's jails at Chi Ma Wan on Lantau was not due until after 2010, when the new Lo Wu prison started taking inmates, although the Chi Ma Wan women's project had not been approved or funded yet.
The project, costing HK$1.77 billion, would increase total capacity from 680 prisoners at present to about 1,000.
Meanwhile, the Lo Wu prison would be completed by 2009. It has been designed to accommodate 1,400 prisoners.
The department has begun revamping prisons to increase capacity after plans for a super-jail on Hei Ling Chau Island were dropped.