Prison Act 1995 offers measures to address Covid-19 spike — Hafiz Hassan

OCTOBER 19 — I refer to Lawyers for Liberty’s urging of the government to urgently address dire Covid-19 spread in prisons.

Why not act under the Prison Act 1995 (Act 537)? Section 3 of the Act empowers the home minister to “declare any house, building, enclosure or place, or any part thereof, to be a prison for the purposes of the Act for the imprisonment or detention of persons lawfully in custody.”

In addition, section 8(1)(b) of the Act provides that wherever there is an outbreak within a prison of a disease which renders it necessary to provide for the temporary shelter and safe custody of any prisoner, the Commissioner General of Prisons may, with the approval of the home minister, direct that prisoners be put in the shelter and safe custody of temporary prisons. A temporary prison shall be a prison for the purposes of the Act.

The Singapore experience of Covid-19 outbreak in crowded dorms that were homes to more than 300,000 low-wage foreign workers from countries like India and Bangladesh, who mainly work in industries like construction and manufacturing — perfect conditions for the virus to spread — informs us that healthy prisoners will have to be taken out to other prisons. Infected prisoners will have to be isolated and treated.

That other prisons can be any house, building, enclosure or place, or any part thereof, declared to be a prison under section 3 or temporary prison under section 8(1)(b) of the Act.

The success of Singapore’s measures is now in the numbers of new Covid-19 cases. On October 13, Singapore reported no new case in dormitories for the first time in more than six months.

So let’s hear it from the home minister.

* This is the personal opinion of the writer or publication and does not necessarily represent the views of Malay Mail.

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