Air-conditioned vehicles to provide relief to prisoners

December 20, 2012


The Cabinet has approved a Bt492million budget for the purchase of 300 air-conditioned vehicles to transport prison inmates.

Sunai Jullapongsathorn, who chairs the House committee on foreign affairs, revealed the information at a seminar yesterday. Held by the Justice Ministry, the seminar addressed the detention and fettering of prisoners, and the rights of prisoners and inmates.

“The vehicles used by the Corrections Department are clearly old. Inmates in the vehicles feel hot and uncomfortable,” Sunai said.

When he became aware of this problem, Sunai said he wrote to the Corrections Department suggesting air-conditioned vehicles be used for the transportation of prisoners/inmates.

“I’ve heard that the department has followed the advice and requested the budget for the purchase of the new vehicles. “The Cabinet has approved the request,” Sunai said.

He also supported the idea of using electronic devices to keep track and monitor inmates, rather than physically locking them up in jail.

“I understand the devices are expensive but perhaps the government may require prisoners to pay for half the expense,” he said.

Sunai believed the move would ease overcrowding at prisons.

National Human Rights Commissioner Niran Pitakwatchara, meanwhile, voiced concern about the use of fettering and its impact on human dignity. He said some inmates not yet found guilty were often fettered in line with current rules.

The rules require the fettering of all male inmates aged not over 60 to prevent any attempt at jailbreak or suicide.

“At the international level, there is criticism about fettering as well as the healthcare services for inmates in Thailand,” Niran said.

He also mentioned the case of Ampon Tangnoppakul, who died while serving a jail term for a lese-majeste offence earlier this year.

Niran pointed out that the Corrections Department might have failed to take care of Ampon’s health well enough.

Corrections Department’s senior executive Lawan Ornsamlee explained that prisoners were only handcuffed at correctional facilities.

“Only convicts held on grave offences are fettered by both ankles and wrists,” she said.

Other prisoners were fettered in the same way only when they travelled out of correctional facilities.

However, Lawan reckoned the use of fettering might have made it seem like her agency had infringed on prisoners’ rights.

“We are considering the use of better fettering devices,” she said.

Rights and Liberties Protection Department’s director-general Narat Sawettanan believed there were many dimensions to tackling problems about the welfare of prisoners.

“Crime prevention, alternative justice and restorative justice are among the possible solutions,” he said.

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