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Overcrowding in Hong Kong Prisons Getting Worse
The occupancy rate at Hong Kong penal institutions last year rose to 14 percent over the prescribed level. This was a one percentage point rise over the previous year.

Overcrowded prisons remain a big challenge for the city, exerting considerable pressure on the size of staff, facilities and resources, the government said Tuesday.

The number of admissions jumped 9.4 percent from 24,366 in 2002 to 26,659 last year.

The figures were made available Tuesday by Pang Sung-yuen, commissioner of the Correctional Services Department, during an annual work review of the department.

Pang said internment facilities, especially those for women, were facing a serious overcrowding problem. Until October of last year, the number of female inmates ran as high as 3,007, representing an occupancy rate of 97 percent over the prescribed level at female institutions. This had led to rebuilding some male prisons to ease the pressure.

The tremendous increase in the female penal population began in 2000, mainly due to the arrival of a rising number of illegal female entrants from the mainland who were found to have "breached the conditions of stay", he explained.

Lai Ding-kee, a senior lecturer of criminology with the City University of Hong Kong, said the majority of the female convicts were charged with prostitution as a result of easier access to Hong Kong made possible by the individual travelers scheme.

To cut recidivism among inmates aged between 21 and 25, the Correctional Services Department started a pilot scheme -- the enhanced reintegration program.

Participants receiving full-time vocational training courses through the program are believed to be more adaptable to the reintegration process upon discharge.

(China Daily HK Edition February 4, 2004)

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