The Ministry of Justice yesterday briefed lawmakers about an initiative to resolve the problem of overcrowded jails by allowing inmates to work outside prison.
Minister of Justice Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) outlined the plan to the Legislative Yuan’s Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee in his first report at the legislature since assuming office.
The report said the initiative would be open to inmates who have served more than three months in prison and have a record of good behavior.
Prisoners who have attempted to escape would not be eligible, it said.
A priority list would be drawn up of eligible inmates, who would be required to have good family support, including frequent family visits and written communication, the report said.
It said the plan would implement the initiative in three stages, with the first short-term stage to focus amending an article in the Prison Act (監獄行刑法) covering inmates’ applications to leave prison during the day.
The second stage would focus on finding institutions and groups willing to provide inmates with jobs, such as government agencies and state-run enterprises, it said.
The report said the ministry would be seeking positions such as cleaning, cooking, farming, animal husbandry, car-washing, fuel pumping, healthcare and foot treatment for the inmates.
In the long-term, the ministry will suggest that government agencies, public schools and state-run enterprises employ inmates capable of working, albeit under certain conditions, the report said.
It said the ministry will also encourage companies to open workshops at correctional institutions, so that inmates can work 40 hours per week.
The Taiwan After-Care Association would also open more sheltered workshops across the nation to assist those soon to be discharged from prison to prepare them for work after they complete their sentences, the report said.
Inmates are only granted day passes for family reunions or visits to relatives, medical treatment and to take skill certification tests.
“The plan for inmates to work outside prison is the first of its kind in Taiwan,” the report said.
However, it said that there would be risks involved, and added that assessments have to be made on the proposed support measures and the public kept fully informed of the plan to reduce concerns about social disorder.
There has been debate about the initiative since the ministry first raised the idea last week.
Before attending the legislative hearing, Chiu told reporters that the proposal was drawn up in response to President Tsai Ing-wen’s (蔡英文) instructions to reform prison management and reduce overcrowding.
Prisons in Taipei, Taoyuan and Kaohsiung are severely overcrowded, Chiu said.