Crowded jails struggle to feed inmates

October 3, 2012
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The cabinet has approved a 500 million baht emergency fund for the Corrections Departments so it can pay over 900 million baht in outstanding prison food bills.

Government spokesman Anusorn Iamsa-ard said cabinet approved the Justice Ministry’s request for additional funding to meet the cost of feeding inmates in over-crowded prisons across the country.

He said the Corrections Department has to take care of an average of 239,000 prisoners per day, but the budget provides only for the official prison capacity of about 160,000.

Which means, he said, the department is feeding 239,000 people on a budget intended to feed only 160,000 prisoners.

He said the cabinet also raised the budget for daily meals for prisoners from 42 baht to 49 baht each per day.

The spokesman said the cabinet approved a 500 million baht emergency budget to help the department deal with 916 million baht in unpaid food bills incurred as a result of over crowding.

He said the Justice Ministry will work with the Budget Bureau in estimating a new budget for the Corrections Department, to cope with rising costs of running prisons, and submit it to the cabinet for approval.

Mr Anusorn said the cabinet also agreed in principle to the suggestion of the Independent National Rule Of Law Commission, headed by Ukrit Monkolnavin, for a system of house arrest in sentencing convicted criminals, to ease the pressure no already overpopulated prisons.

The commission said the prisoners could be bind with trackers and kept inside their house for the duration as sentenced by the court.

The commission also suggested the use of other means, such as early pardons and reducing jail time for prisoners.

However, the government spokesman didn’t specify what types of offenders are eligible to the “alternative sentencing”.

Several, anti- Thaksin groups, meanwhile, believe that this is just another ploy to keep the fugitive former premier out of prison.

For example, the Serithai.net and I support PM Abhisit facebook pages posted an article from a newspaper, that pointed out that the Commission was appointed by the government, and therefore, is allegedly working to help Thaksin Shinawatra rather than solving the overpopulated prison dilemma.