‘Bangkok Rules’ for women convicts

March 23, 2013
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Judges nationwide have decided to use the United Nations’ Bangkok Rules in court trials and be more lenient with pregnant convicts or new mothers. Thailand’s recent world ranking as the second highest in the number of female inmates suggests that Thai judges focus more on jail sentences rather than other alternatives.

hailand comes in after the United States.

Metha Thampanichawat, chief judge at the Appeals Court, said most Thai judges have decided to start applying the Bangkok Rules in their verdicts and are considering the background and circumstances of female defendants. He cited a case in which the defendant had a three-month-old child, so the judge decided not to put her behind bars.

Angkhaneung Lepnak, an official from the Corrections Department, said of the 107 prisons in Thailand, 99 housed both sexes and only eight were meant for just women.

She said female prisoners in ordinary prisons had little access to education, training or welfare, adding that the department was planning to set up at least one females-only prison per region.

It is also promoting alternatives to imprisonment during trial, especially for pregnant women or those with infants or bad health, she added.

These statements were made at an event yesterday initiated by HRH Princess Bajra Kitiyabha to unveil Participatory Action Research (PAR) on women’s prison reform to meet international standards and apply the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders, which is known as the Bangkok Rules.

This is the first time in Asia that PAR is being applied to the reform of women’s prisons and will extend to men’s prisons in the future.

The PAR was conducted as a pilot scheme at Ratchaburi Prison where officials were also trained to promote family ties (such as granting the inmates’ children visitation rights) as well as provide legal assistance and prepare prisoners for life after prison, deputy justice permanent secretary Charnchao Chaiyanukij said.

PAR team leader Napaporn Hawanont said the research aimed to change people’s mindset and the treatment of female prisoners, as well as ensure that prisons provide rehabilitation.

Prison officials will also be made to change their approach from a strict disciplinary one to one that allows inmates’ participation.

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