Hei Ling Chau jail is new treatment centre for young addicts

PUBLISHED : Friday, 29 January, 2010, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 29 January, 2010, 12:00am

Prison chiefs have turned a Hei Ling Chau jail into a drug treatment centre for convicted juveniles - the first of its kind in Hong Kong.

Authorities were forced to act after the number of jailed young addicts soared 60 per cent, from 206 in 2008 to 329 last year, and they opted to make the Lau Sun Correctional Institution solely a centre for male inmates aged 14 to 21.

Lau Sun - a vocational training centre for adult prisoners since 2006 - provides accommodation for 182 and now holds 102 inmates serving sentences from two months to a year who must also undergo mandatory drug rehabilitation. Deputy Commissioner of Correctional Services Kwok Leung-ming said the bold move was a step in the right direction.

He said: 'We are fully aware of the manpower needs in the new drug treatment centre, while on the other hand we have enhanced the vocational training and counselling services for their rehabilitation.' Kwok also announced a zero tolerance policy on attempts to smuggle drugs into prisons after seizures more than doubled from 93 in 2008 to 188 last year. He said in most cases the smuggled drugs were for self-dosage but officials were determined to stop them.

However, he said he expected the number of drug convictions to soar again this year and the Correctional Services Department might soon consider using other correctional institutions to treat young addicts.

Assistant Correctional Services Commissioner Lam Kwai-sun said the department had trialled three x-ray screening devices from Singapore last year in a bid to detect drug packages swallowed by inmates, a common drug smuggling tactic, but the results had been unsatisfactory. Further tests would be conducted this year on other x-ray devices, he said.

Police had also introduced measures to keep young drug offenders under scrutiny once they left prison.

They would not only be under statutory supervision but would also face random urine tests and inspections.

Another penal institution on the island, an annex of Hei Ling Chau Addiction Treatment Centre, would be dedicated as a separate Nei Kwu Correctional Institution next month.

It would have an increased capacity to hold between 140 to 180 female drug addicts.

Drug convictions

The number of young drug addicts put behind bars in Hong Kong has soared in the last year by: 60%