KUALA LUMPUR, March 9 ― The government wants to lower convict numbers instead of building more prisons to accommodate them, Datuk Liew Vui Keong has said.
Liew noted that prisons nationwide were now over capacity, but reportedly said the government does not plan to construct more as this was not part of the government's key performance indicators (KPI).
“Our goal is to implement effective measures to reduce the number of prisoners, not to build more prisons, we are prepared to actively push for awareness activities, to advise youths to stay away from drugs, while at the same time guide convicts to return to the straight path through community reform programmes,” the minister in charge of legal affairs was quoted saying yesterday by local daily Sin Chew Daily.
Liew said the prisons in Malaysia could only accommodate a maximum of 45,000 prisoners, but said the current number of prisoners has reached over 66,000.
“Among the prisoners are drug offenders exceeding 46,000 people, amounting for 56 per cent. There are 1,281 prisoners on death row, among them 932 are drug traffickers, the other 300-odd includes the 19 who were involved in the Lahad Datu intrusion incident,” he also said.
Speaking on the severity of prison overcrowding here, Liew noted that one prison made prisoners sleep in shifts to mitigate.
This was due to lack of beds for a 10-person cell housing 20 prisoners, forcing them to take turns with 10 to stand while the other 10 sleep, he said.
During parliamentary debate on October 30, 2018, Liew had said that there were 65,222 convicts in prison, with about 36,313 or 55 per cent who were drug offenders.
Citing statistics from the prison authorities, Liew said that the daily cost for a prisoner ranges from RM38 to RM41, inclusive of cost for amenities and prison officer wages.
This means that the minimum daily cost involved for the 65,222 prisoners would be at least over RM2.4 million.