A FOCUS ON THAI PRISON OVERCROWDING AFTER COVID-19 OUTBREAKS

With thousands of inmates now infected with Covid-19 at several Thai prisons, shedding light on the country’s longstanding problem of overcrowded prisons, Thailand’s justice minister says around 50,000 inmates will be released next month.

So far, the Department of Corrections has reported 10,384 Covid-19 cases in Thai prisons. Following the last week’s outbreaks at the Bangkok Remand Prison and Central Women’s Correctional Institution, with nearly 3,000 inmates infected, human rights groups called for the release of inmates who were incarcerated over minor charges or awaiting trial for minor or non-violent offences.

Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin says around 50,000 inmates who are incarcerated on minor drug charges will be released next month and placed under house arrest with electronic monitoring bracelets.

The department is continuing proactive testing this week and all prisons must file a weekly report outlining the number of Covid-19 cases as well as the number of those who have recovered from a coronavirus infection.

Detainees are often at heightened risk of Covid-19 due to close proximity, inability to practice “social distancing,” a lack of adequate sanitation and hygiene, a high incidence of underlying medical conditions, and lack of adequate medical care. Staff risk exposure and infecting their own families and communities.

Thailand’s prison population rate is one of the highest in the world. On a list of prison population rates, World Prison Brief ranks Thailand as the ninth highest with an inprisonment rate of 449 per 100,000 and 312,000 in prison.

The USA has by far the world’s highest rate at 639 per 1000,000 with over 2 million imprisoned.  .

ASEAN IMPRISONMENT RATES (per 100,000)

Thailand               449       

Cambodia            220

Malaysia              212

Philippines           200

Singapore            185

Myanmar             171

Laos                   130

Vietnam              128

Indonesia            93