Prepare prisoners for life after release
Updated: 2013-12-12 09:43
By Cao Yin in Beijing and Luo Wangshu in Chongqing (China Daily)
China has experienced a rapid increase in re-offending and in major crimes committed by ex-convicts, according to experts.
By the end of October, there were 1.67 million convicts undergoing community correction, 1 million of whom were later released. The rate of re-offending by those serving their sentences in the community has stood at around 0.2 percent in recent years, Zhao Dacheng, vice-minister of Justice, said at a media briefing in Beijing late last month.
Community correction allows prisoners early release from jail, but they are required to report to a center every day and undertake voluntary work in the community. Apart from that, they are effectively free to resume their former lives and work or study as they wish. The centers also provide classes in basic computing and other relevant subjects to give ex-prisoners a better start as they re-enter society.
To reduce the rate of re-offending even further, government departments and NGOs have made great efforts to provide former inmates with a basic living allowance and job opportunities.
Those efforts are backed up within the justice system, too. The prison management department of the southwestern municipality of Chongqing provides psychological counseling for convicts on the verge of release to prepare them for life on the outside.
The process has won the approval of many experts, including Ma Ai, a professor of criminal psychology at the China University of Political Science and Law. However, Ma expressed a degree of concern.
"Some ex-convicts are easily provoked to violence, even though they were educated to some degree in prison and have been given assistance in the outside world," said Ma.
He believes that the problem lies in the lack of a comprehensive prisoner evaluation system. Ensuring that inmates are healthy both mentally and physically before release is far more important than punishing them, he said.
Zhou was lucky to meet Wang Jie, the founder of China Ex-convicts Aid, an NGO that provides ex-prisoners with employment opportunities. The assistance given by Wang and his organization boosted Zhou's self-confidence and eased his path back into society. Eventually, Zhou became a voluntary worker for the organization, using his experience to help other ex-convicts in a similar position.