Corrections chief eyes reform

Pol Col Naras Savestanan officially took over as director-general of the Department of Corrections on Monday, and within hours was calling for reform. (Photos by Tawatchai Kemgumnerd)

Newly appointed Department of Corrections director-general Naras Savestanan has pledged to prioritise improving correctional facilities and decreasing the overflow of inmates in prisons across the country.

Pol Col Naras said Monday that Thailand’s legal system currently has too many offences that penalise offenders with jail terms, leading to overcrowded prisons.

He said the Department of Corrections has often been criticised for releasing prisoners after 10 years of imprisonment when many of them were actually given the death penalty.

“It is something we will have to address quickly,” he said. “But because there are too many prisoners, correctional processes are not conducted efficiently enough.”

“Present facilities can actually contribute to creating criminals,” Pol Col Naras added.

He said that some prisons in Thailand are more than 100 years old, and were constructed while not observing internationally accepted standards.

Pol Col Naras added that prisons also face a lack of staff, with only around 10,000 correctional officers working across all prisons nationwide.

Headquarters employees stand as Pol Col Naras Savestanan assumes his post as new chief of the Corrections Department. He immediately announced his first concern is prison overcrowding.

Thailand’s prisons currently hold more than 300,000 prisoners, the highest among all Asean countries.

However, the prisons can only handle a combined capacity of 217,000 inmates.

He said crowded conditions and insufficient correctional staff numbers have increased the likelihood of repeat offenders once convicts have been released.

Pol Col Naras said the department will adopt former minister of justice Gen Paiboon Koomchaya’s five-step policy to improve prison conditions.

The first step involves confiscating all forbidden items in prison, including drugs and mobile phones.

The second step involves organising prison centres, while the third aims to increase disciplinary processes for prisoners, such as holding marching competitions.

The fourth step involves providing meditation sessions for prisoners to improve their mental state.

The final step of the policy will involve increasing public acceptance for the ex-convicts.

Meanwhile, a seminar discussing how the overcrowding in Thai prisons is linked to the country’s harsh penalties on drug use was conducted Monday.

Speaking at the seminar, former Supreme Court president Weerapon Thongsuwan said drug users should first be treated as “patients” instead of being directly sent to prison for minor offences.

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