Jails to raise inmates’ skills

September 17, 2014


The Corrections Department has come up with an idea to turn its prisons into centres for inmate learning and skills training.

Department chief Witthaya Suriyawong yesterday said the training programmes at the department’s 143 prisons nationwide need to be revamped based on their strong points in particular learning fields.

Thon Buri Remand Prison was known for its outstanding traditional art skills which were applied in making crafts such as classical dance head attire, while Maha Sarakham Prison could become an education-focused prison with inmates taking part in long-distance learning classes offered via satellite by Wang Klai Kangwon School in Prachuap Khiri Khan’s Hua Hin district, said Mr Witthaya.

That school has been operating its long-distance learning programme since 1996.

Inmates from the nearby northeastern provinces of Khon Kaen and Kalasin would be transferred to the Maha Sarakham prison to attend the long-distance learning classes, as those prisons are not equipped to handle distance-learning classes.

Inmates would take part as students from a remote location and be graded on assignments set by the school, with teachers and prison staff aiding the teaching process.

However, inmates wanting to enroll in the course must sit an exam before they are admitted, he said.

Any prison able to offer activities such as sports could join the scheme, Mr Witthaya said.

Kanok Karunamit, director of Thon Buri Remand Prison, said it houses 6,000 inmates and had 200 wardens. Most inmates were serving time for illicit drugs.

The prison holds activities for inmates including boxing, cooking, shoemaking and traditional arts training.

Inmates have produced 10 different traditional handicrafts and elaborate art items for which the prison is famous.

The products have been put on sale and earn more than 500,000 baht a year for the prison, said Mr Kanok. Some 100 inmates have received the crafts training.

Mr Witthaya said the number of prisoners nationwide sits at 350,000. Prisons across the country only have room for about 200,000 inmates.

Mr Witthaya said inconsistent government policies were partly to blame for overcrowded prisons as crime rates have increased and offenders end up in jail.

The rising inmate numbers have also led to increased smuggling of prohibited items into prisons, particularly mobile phones that have been used by inmates to make drug trades behind bars.

Authorities have imposed a jail term of up to five years on inmates or wardens found smuggling banned items into the prisons.

However, mobile phones and other prohibited items were still being smuggled in.

In the past three months, attempts had been made to smuggle a total of 1,322 mobile phones into the prisons and officials intercepted 278 of those mobile phones, Mr Witthaya said.

During the same period, a total of 9,956 methamphetamine pills had been seized as they were being sent into prisons.

The department has moved 800 out of 1,000 major drug inmates to eight maximum security prisons, he said.

It also has sought 340 million baht from the government to expand prisons to handle rising inmate numbers.

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