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Rehabilitation may solve prison overcrowding

PETALING JAYA (ANN/THE STAR) – If first-time and light offenders such as drug addicts are sent for community-based correctional programmes instead of being incarcerated, prison overcrowding can be avoided, says one expert.

Criminologist Datuk Dr P Sundramoorthy of Universiti Sains Malaysia’s Centre for Policy Research said the issue of congested jails is not only faced by Malaysia but by other countries worldwide as well.

“Overcrowding is a global issue, and here it is partly due to the absence of sentencing policies.

“We do not have sentencing guidelines where an advisory council can look into an offender’s criminal history background and other factors prior to deciding the most appropriate punishment to be meted out.

“Non-serious, non-violent and first-time offenders need not be sent to prison but should be subjected to community-based correctional programmes,” he told The Star.

Due to the tough stand by the government on drug-related crimes, there is a substantial number of inmates in prison for such offences, he added.

While Sundramoorthy agreed that drug traffickers should be dealt with severely, he said users should be rehabilitated within the community or outside the prison system.

“For many decades, experts have been pushing to decriminalise offences related to narcotics use and addiction.

“Punitive philosophy should be the last resort when dealing with drug users as it is not effective and also leads to overcrowding of prisons,” he said, adding that there should also be an efficient probation system that is separate from the prison system.

“Congested jails lead to undesirable dealings and interactions between inmates, where fresh ones may pick up the wrong things from hardcore criminals,” Sundramoorthy said.

He also suggested the government consider using private prisons.

“Many advanced economies have private prisons where the taxpayers funds are not used.

“This should be considered for white-collar and non-violent criminals as we seem to be seeing a rise in the number of such offenders here,” he said.

PHOTO: ENVATO
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