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Prison Department Drafting a Reform Policy

The initiative for reform was discussed and approved during an annual meeting of the prison department last week.

The Ministry of Interior’s prison department is preparing to reform its visitation and other policies, to allow inmates to meet with family members on special occasions and gain skills ahead of their release, officials said Thursday.

The reforms will allow prisoners visitation a day ahead of major holidays, such as the New Year, giving them more time with their families, Nouth Saan, secretary of state for the Interior Ministry, told VOA Khmer.

The initiative was discussed and approved during an annual meeting of the prison department last week.

Other reforms will include the development of skills training in areas like electronics repair and agriculture, said Kuy Bun Sorn, director of the prison department.

“This is a reform of prison policy, particularly in rehabilitation for prisoner integration, so that after they are freed they can go back to their communities with clear skills,” he said.

The reforms are aimed at preventing second offenses, he said.

Cambodia is facing an overcrowding of its jails, with an estimated 14,000 prisoners across the system in 2010, according to government statistics.

Chan Saveth, head of monitoring for the rights group Adhoc, said the draft policy showed some sympathy for prisoners, but many of their families are poor and live far from the provincial detention centers.

Still, overall it was a gain for prisoner rights, he said. “The prisoners have the right and freedom to meet and talk with their own family members, and their rights are to be respected.”

Am Sam Ath, head of investigation for the rights group Lichado, said the policy was an improvement and will lessen the sense of isolation experienced by many prisoners.