Thailand’s Justice Ministry to Address High Imprisonment Rates

The Justice Ministry is working on many projects aimed at easing overpopulation at prisons, such as the use of electronic-monitoring devices and extending suspended sentences from three years to five years. 

In a video conference with all departments and prison chiefs, Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin said he wanted to limit the number of inmates to around 370,000 across the country, in order to avoid having to build more prisons. 

He said many projects will be launched, including new skill-development schemes in which inmates will be provided with vocational training and employers of former inmates will be granted tax benefits. 

Somsak said he was also concerned about the Bt23 per head allocated for daily meals in prison, which he said could not possibly be enough to provide proper nutrition. The daily subsidy for each school meal is Bt22 per student. 

Wisit Wisitsora-at, the Justice Ministry’s permanent secretary, said as many as 60,000 people are imprisoned every year, adding electronic-monitoring devices should be used for five years instead of just three.

Also, he said, if the ratio of repeated crimes is reduced from 35 to 15 per cent, then monitoring devices should be considered in more cases, and become more acceptable to the Thai society, which is usually biased against former inmates.

Naras Savestanan, director-general of the Rights and Liberties Protection Department, blamed the justice system’s tendency to put offenders behind bars, adding that poor hygiene and low-quality food in prisons make any vocational training for inmates ineffective.

Thailand has the third highest prison population in Asia. But​ ​with​ ​461 prisoners for every 100,000 people, Thailand has the tenth highest incarceration rate in the world and the highest in Asia. With fourth highest prison population in Asia, Indonesia has 64 prisoners for every 100,000 citizens.  Vietnam and Philippines follow at fifth and sixth position respectively.