A riot shook a prison north of Bangkok last month, overcrowding was the likely cause.
One doesn't hear very often about prisons in Thailand or prison reform.
Back in 2004, the BBC was allowed to report on conditions in notorious Bangkwang prison (also known as the "Bangkok Hilton") (Read article)
Riots at a prison north of Bangkok late last month have brought prison issues back to public attention (Read article).
In the past, other important issues within Thailand's prison system have come to light including: 1. the shackling of prisoners in heavy leg irons, 2. the unofficial use of violence by other inmates to enforce prison discipline, and 3. the outsourcing of parts of Thailand's penal system to private companies.
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ON the RECORD: Overcrowding tests prison authorities
About 200 prisoners in Lop Buri Central Prison staged a riot and torched prison property in protest against strict controls by warders. Severe overcrowding of the prison is believed to have led to the revolt last Thursday. ANUCHA CHAROENPO spoke to Corrections Department director-general Chartchai Suthiklom about measures to ease overcrowding problems in jails.
What's the present situation of prison overcrowding?
The number of inmates in prisons nationwide has risen dramatically over the past decade, reaching a peak in 2003 when there were 240,000 inmates. That figure is far beyond the capacity of the 140 prisons in the country, which were built to accommodate only 140,000 inmates.
Now we have about 210,000 detainees but the number keeps on rising with about 2,000 new inmates entering the jails every month.
What steps have been taken to solve the problem of overcrowding?
Prison overcrowding has long been a problem for my department. Since I took office 11 months ago, I have tried to reduce the prison population by pushing for reduced jail terms for inmates with good behaviour. However, this is not an easy task because [term reductions] have to go through several processes as required by law.
However, as a short-term solution, the department has expanded prison compounds and sleeping areas to ease the crammed conditions. The agency has also renovated some old prisons in provinces so that they can accommodate more prisoners.
After the Lop Buri prison riot, do you have any special measures in place to bring hard-core inmates in each prison under control?
I told prison commissioners to keep a close watch on the movement of hard-core inmates who wield influence. Those who regularly cause trouble for other inmates will be blacklisted and separated from other prisoners. They will be moved to high-security prisons.
In the Lop Buri case, we have transferred dozens of inmates who were involved and masterminded the riot to nearby high-security prisons in Klong Phai in Nakhon Ratchasima and Klong Prem in Bangkok. We also have a solitary confinement unit for inmates who frequently violate prison regulations.
What measures have been prepared to deal with prison rioting, prison breaks and the taking of hostages?
We have a riot squad at the department. The team is made up of 18 officers who have undergone special training to deal with these incidents.
Drugs are also a problem inside prisons. What's the present situation?
About 60% of the inmates across the country are drug convicts. It is difficult for them to kick the habit or wash their hands of the drug business. Inmates order them in on mobile phones, which are smuggled into prison by their relatives and friends. We conduct frequent searches for drugs hidden in jails by inmates.
(Source: Bangkok Post, ON the RECORD, Overcrowding tests prison authorities, 3/12/2010, link)
prison - a large set of locked buildings where convicted criminals must live for a period of time as punishment (See Wikipedia) คุก,ที่คุมขัง, ตาราง, เรือนจำ
reform - improvement in the way something operates or works
notorious - famous in a bad kind of way
public attention - people are noticing and thinking about something (they usually don't notice or think about it)
come to light - been discovered, people or learn or find out for the first time that something is happening or is true
irons - leg irons, iron handcuffs, iron things locked around your ankles that make it difficult to walk and move ตรวน
shackle - putting handcuffs or leg irons on a person to restrict their movement ตีตรวน
discipline - the control of behaviour (either self-control of your own behaviour or another perform controlling your behaviour) การฝึกฝน
enforce discipline - take action to control the behaviour of other people or yourself (self-discipline)
outsourcing - giving work to an outside company to do, instead of doing within your country
penal - having to do with the punishment of criminals เกี่ยวกับการลงโทษตามกฎหมาย
penal system - the sytem of prisons in a country
authorities - the government, the people who control and govern some activity ผู้มีอำนาจ เจ้าหน้าที่
stage - organize an event, make arrangements for event to happen, put on an event
riot - a violent protest การจลาจล
torched - set on fire
property - building and equipment that is owned by someone (here: owned by the prison)
protest - a strong complaint or disagreement ประท้วง
strict - very careful and exact เข้มงวด
warder - a prison guard
revolt - use force to remove the government of your country (here: use force to remove prison officials)
Corrections Department - the government department that runs prisons
measures - actions that are intended to achieve or deal with something มาตราการ
ease - to make less severe บรรเทา
overcrowding - when there are too many people gathered at a place
inmate - someone who is kept in a prison, mental hospital or other institution นักโทษ
nationwide - throughout a whole country ทั่วทั้งประเทศ
dramatically - in a big way อย่างใหญ่หลวง
decade - a period of ten years ทศวรรษ, ระยะเวลา 10 ปี
peak - highest level, the time when something is at its highest or greatest level ช่วงเวลาที่พบมากที่สุด
figure - a number or statistic
capacity - the total amount that can be contained ปริมาณสูงสุดที่จะรับได้
accommodate - to provide a place for someone to stay ให้ที่พักพิง
take steps to solve a problem - do a series of actions or tasks to solve a problem
detain (verb) - confine, hold and prevent from leaving a place กักขัง, หน่วงเหนี่ยว, กักตัว, เหนี่ยวรั้ง
detainee (noun) - a person how is being detained, same meaning as "inmate" ผู้ถูกกักขัง, ผู้ถูกคุมขัง, นักโทษ
population - the number of people living in an area (here: number of people living in prisons in Thailand)
pushing for - trying to make authorities (people with the power) make some decision or take some action
jail term - the period that convicted criminal has to stay in jail or prison as part of their prison
task - a piece of work that someone does, something that you have to do, a responsibility you must carry out หน้าที่; ภารกิจ
compound - an enclosed and protected area where people live or work
cram (verb) - to put people or things into a space that is too small
crammed (adjective) - when too many people or things are in a small space
renovate - to repair a building so that it is like new
hard-core - the most extreme examples of a group (example: hard-core fans, hard-core criminals)
commissioner - an important government official, in charge of a department ข้าหลวง (also see next two meanings)
commission - a small group of people who have officially been given a job to do (for example: investigate some issue) กรรมาธิการ
commissioner - member of a commission กรรมาธิการ
prison commissioners - high level government officials in charge of running prisons
keep a close watch on - watch carefully to see if there are problems
wield - to use ใช้ประโยชน์
influence - the power to have an effect on people or things อิทธิพล
wield influence - to have and be able to use power or influence ใช้อำนา
security - the need to provide safety from attack, harm or damage ความปลอดภัย
security levels of prisons - more "secure" means more control of the inmate so they 1. cannot escape, 2. transact criminal business from within the prison (See Wikipedia)
high security prison - a prison that has the highest level of inmate control (so they cannot escape or do business with the outside)
transferred - moved from one place to another place
mastermind - plan, organize, plan and direct or run some activity, done by a person with special expert knowledge วางแผนและควบคุมอย่างเชี่ยวชาญ
confinement - when a person or animal is kept somewhere, usually by force; detention การกักตัว
confine (verb) - to force a person to stay at a place and not leave, restrict, limit movement จำกัด, จำกัดให้อยู่ภายใน, คุมให้อยู่ใน
confinement (noun) - the act of confining a person to one place การจำกัด
solitary confinement - when a prison inmate is kept in a cell by themselves
cell - a small locked room in a prison (which the inmate cannot leave)
violate - to break a law, rule or agreement ฝ่าฝืนกฎหมาย, ฝ่าฝืนกฎหมาย
regulations - official rules that control the way that things are done ระเบียบปฏิบัติ, ข้อบังคับ
prison breaks - when an inmate escapes from prison (leaves the prison illegally)
hostage - a person being held as a prisoner to force another person to do something (if they don't do it, the "hostage" will be killed) ตัวประกัน
squad - a small group of soldiers or police who do a particular job หน่วยทหารพิเศษ
officers - police officers (all police are called "police officers")
training - to teach people how to do an activity or job การฝึกฝน
incidents - events which are either unpleasant or unusual เหตุการณ์
convict - someone who is in prison (as punishment for breaking the law)
habit - some action or behaviour that you do often, often without thinking about doing it (example: he had a bad drinking habit, she had many good habits such as always being on time for meetings) สิ่งที่ทำเป็นประจำ, กิจวัตร
kick the habit - end the habit, stop doing some regular behaviour (that you did not have complete control over)
wash their hands of - stop being involved in some bad thing
smuggled - bring goods into a country secretly and illegally
relatives - people in your larger famil who are related to you like uncles, aunts and cousins พันธุ์, พี่น้อง
conduct - to do something in an organised way; to carry out
frequent - happening often เกิดขึ้นบ่อย
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