Correctional services review issued

The Correctional Services Department, in its 2020 Annual Review, said the average daily number of remands hit a decade high that year.   Issuing the review today, the department said in the first half of last year, court hearings were affected by the COVID-19 epidemic, which indirectly resulted in a 16% reduction in the annual number of admissions, including remands and convicted people, from 14,224 in 2019 to 11,967 in 2020.   As the legal proceedings of cases in relation to social disturbances were in progress, there was an increase in remands. The average daily number of remands hit a decade high last year, from 1,436 in 2011 to 1,962 in 2020, representing an increase of 37%.   The highest single-day number of remands in 2020 stood at 2,195, up 39% compared with the figure in 2011. The department expects that the relevant figures will remain high and have a further upward trend this year.   The department explained that the substantial increase in the number of remands aged 21 or above placed a heavy burden on Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre and Tai Lam Centre for Women. The penal population frequently exceeded the admission capacity of both institutions as a result.   It has proposed the in-situ partial redevelopment of Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre to increase its capacity by 410 places and improve its existing correctional facilities.   During the riots in 2019, the department deployed correctional officers to take up appointment as special constables to assist the Government in stopping violence and curbing disorder.   The review also pointed out that the recidivism rate decreased from 24.8% in the discharge year of 2017 to 22.5% in 2018, which is the lowest on record.   Amid the outbreak of the COVID-19 epidemic, the department has strengthened cleaning and disinfection work, and activated the Three-tier Medical Response System to detect, isolate and handle high-risk cases in its institutions since mid-January.    Facing a dire shortage of masks at the onset of the epidemic, the department immediately extended the production of the only manufacturing line of filter masks in Hong Kong at that time to a round-the-clock production.   More than 2,500 off-duty and retired officers were recruited within a short period to work in shifts on a voluntary basis in Lo Wu Correctional Institution for mask production.   The department has also set up additional production lines of filter masks and consolidated its existing resources to establish production lines in Lo Wu Correctional Institution and Tai Lam Correctional Institution for manufacturing personal protective equipment such as disposable isolation gowns, disposable caps and protective face shields.   On rehabilitation, the department is planning to establish a Youth Lab to provide a spiritual space for young people in custody to undergo psychological rehabilitation and rebuilding, adjust their mode of thinking and enhance their law-abiding awareness.   The initiative will have a trial run in Pik Uk Correctional Institution. Subject to its effectiveness, it will be progressively extended to other correctional institutions.   The department has also launched the Understanding History is the Beginning of Knowledge initiative to assist young people in custody to learn history, enhance their sense of national identity, help them reflect on the meaning of life and guide them back on the right track.   Regarding the smart prison protocol development, Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution will be converted into a first-generation smart prison which is expected to come into operation again in the middle of this year.   To facilitate the long-term development of the smart prison protocol, the department will establish the e-Staff Training Institute to strengthen its officers’ capabilities in law enforcement and enhance their self-confidence.   Additionally, the construction of the Correctional Services Department Headquarters Building at Shing Tai Road, Chai Wan commenced in the first quarter of this year and will be completed in the fourth quarter of 2024.   The department also said it is expected that about 50 officers will be recruited in 2020-21.

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