Wednesday, January 20, 2010

35,103 prisoners - 10,800 foreigners (50% immigration offence), 31 prisons (8 overcrowded). How many remand prisoners? How many tried/convicted prisoners?

31 Prisons in Malaysia
8 are overcrowded

"...Zulkifli [Prisons Department Director-General Datuk Zulkifli Omar] said eight of the 31 prison institutions in the country were still over-crowded..." - Star, 20/1/2010, New parole system proves to be successful
35,103 prisoners nationwide, of which 10,800 are foreigners
With regard the foreigner prisoners, 50% of the cases involved breaking immigration rules
He [Prisons Department Director-General Datuk Zulkifli Omar] also noted that one-third of the prisoners were foreigners and 50% of the cases involved breaking immigration rules. “We have 35,103 prisoners nationwide, of which 10,800 are foreigners.’’ - Star, 20/1/2010, New parole system proves to be successful
Sadly, we have not been told as to how many are prisoners who have been tried and convicted, and how many of these are really remand prisoners (i.e. those who are still waiting for their trial to be over [or maybe even start] ) 

With regard to persons who have yet to be tried, convicted and sentenced - generally for the majority of the cases they have a right to be bailed out, and if they are, then they would not have to languish in prisons whilst waiting for the trial to complete.

However the fact is that there are many, especially the poor, who just do not have money or resources to get bailed out. In Malaysia, we need money to be put in - not just the promise to pay later in the event that the accused 'runs away and not attend court' . So how many can afford to raise and pay RM2,000, RM3,000 or more for bail (remember we will not be able to access or use this money until the trial is all over, and the accused is either convicted or acquitted). Hence, many of the poor will not be able to afford bail - and/or find persons that will stand as sureties. Hence, they do languish in these 'remand prisons' - and some have been known to have even spend more time than the maximum sentence of the offence that they have been charged with - and here in Malaysia, their is still no compensation for this loss of liberty in criminal cases. [This is why many of these 'poor' may just plead guilty, even if they are innocent, because then they can just serve whatever sentence, get out fast and move on with their lives...].

When it comes to foreigners, it is even worse.

Bail - Difficult to find the money for Bail

Sureties - Normally, the court will require 1 or 2 sureties, and the Court may ask that these be Malaysians, and note that it is the sureties who usually have to open an account under their name, and the put the required monies into these accounts, which are then frozen to prevent the 'bail money' to be taken out without a court order.

Documents - Visas/Work Passes/Work Permits have expired, and unless the additional step is taken by their lawyers to get the Immigration Department to renew these visas - they cannot legally be let free to remain in the country. Immigration Department would most likely only issue them 'Special Passes', i.e. monthly passes costing RM100-00 per renewal. Courts will require the undertakings of lawyers of migrants to take their passports for the purposes of applying for these 'Special Passes', and thereafter returning the said Passports for the court's safekeeping. Everytime a renewal is required, there is a need to get a court letter, get the passports to the Immigration Department, pay the money, get the special passes, and then return the Passports to court. Everytime the passports expire, again it is required to go to the relevant embassy and get it renewed - and the migrant will be required to pay the requisite fee. Further, for the purposes of renewal, the holder's physical presence will be required, and this again is difficult especially at the first instance of application when the bail is granted.

Passports - Courts generally order that the passports be deposited in court to prevent the foreigner from 'running away'. Now, even when it comes to documented migrants, employers/agents hold these passports - and the accused does not even have it on them.

Given all the above circumstances, that is the reason why many foreigners, who really are remand prisoners waiting for their trial, will end up in the prisons.

Many foreigners also, by all these difficulties like the poorer Malaysians, may just plead guilty even if they are innocent so that the court can impose a definite sentence that they can carry out in the prison and move on --- but alas, unlike the Malaysians, they may not be released because their passports and visas may have expired and they cannot leave prisons and enjoy freedom until their documents are in order...

Hence, more foreigners in prison..

It will be better to look at statistics of foreigners/Malaysians tried and convicted of the more serious crimes before we can make any conclusions about foreigners and crimes in Malaysia.

Language is also a problem - interpreters many a time do not come free, and this inability to communicate effectively with the authorities, their lawyers, etc..

KAJANG: Prisoners on parole numbering 777 have successfully served their time outside the prison walls since the system was introduced 18 months ago, said Prisons Depart-ment director-general Datuk Zulkifli Omar.

Saying the success rate was very high, he added that only 20 of them were thrown back into prison for breaching the rules and that 193 convicts were still under parole.

He said a total of 990 convicts were eligible for parole under the system that was introduced in July 2008.

Asked if the system had helped reduce over-crowding, Zulkifli said eight of the 31 prison institutions in the country were still over-crowded.

“Eligibility for parole is limited to those who have served half their sentence,’’ he said after accompanying Malaysia Crime Prevention Foundation vice-chairman Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye to the Kajang Prison Complex here yesterday.

To further check prison overload, plans are in the pipeline to introduce a new prison system catering to specific categories such as remand cases, convicted cases, women and juvenile, he said.

He also noted that one-third of the prisoners were foreigners and 50% of the cases involved breaking immigration rules. “We have 35,103 prisoners nationwide, of which 10,800 are foreigners.’’

Meanwhile, Lee said the parole system was good to sensitise the public and potential employers to accept rehabilitated convicts.

“Through the system, convicts would be given a chance to prove their performance at work.
“Otherwise, under normal circumstances, employers tend to immediately reject applicants who are ex-convicts,’’ he said.

He also called on parents and the community to keep an eye on ex-convicts and give them the moral support for rehabilitation..- Star, 20/1/2010, New parole system proves to be successful