The Ministry of Justice will expand a community corrections pilot programme to all regions after six years of experiments to help convicts and former convicts integrate into society and 'minimise destabilising social factors'. The ministry hailed the programme as a key to maintaining social stability, but a public administration professor said China still lacked the legal foundation to allow community corrections to be formally implemented. The decision to expand the programme was made on Wednesday by the Ministry of Justice, the Ministry of Public Security and the Supreme People's Procuratorate. Justice Minister Wu Aiying said the programme would apply to five types of offenders - those on probation; on parole; under surveillance; serving temporary service out of prison; and those who had been freed but were deprived of their political rights. The trial programme that began in 2003 covered six provinces and municipalities including Beijing and Shanghai. In 2005, the programme was expanded to 18 provinces and municipalities. Today, the programme is run in 27 provinces. Of the 187,000 offenders who have been put on the scheme, 171,000 have been freed, the China Daily reported. Those taking part in the programme could stay at home but would be subject to regular visits by social workers, according to Professor Zhang Yu, director of the School of Social and Public Administration at the East China University of Science and Technology. Zhang said the programme aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders by helping them assimilate into society. 'The social workers will try to help them resolve issues such as employment, social discrimination or family problems.' He said the programme had effectively cut recidivism in Shanghai since its introduction in 2003, with unofficial statistics showing that only 0.7 per cent of the participants committed crimes again last year. A Justice Ministry spokesman told the Legal Daily that offenders would receive legal and social education, and psychological correction to increase their sense of guilt and awareness of social responsibility. 'Social surveillance of the offenders should be stepped up ... to prevent them from committing crimes again,' the spokesman said. But Zhang said the programme still lacked legal support as the authorities were still drafting an amendment to the criminal law. Under mainland criminal law, minor offenders taking part in community corrections are under the surveillance of the Ministry of Public Security. Zhang said the law needed to be amended now that the offenders were to be put under the surveillance of both the justice and public security ministries. 'That is why this programme is still on trial,' he said. 'The amendment is now on the agenda, but it will take another three to five years to complete.'