Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung in the Legislative Council today (June 13):
Some inmates and discharged inmates have relayed to me that the Correctional Services Department ("CSD") has exploited the rights and benefits of inmates and neglected their basic needs. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(a) given that at present CSD provides each male inmate one roll of toilet paper (eight sheets per day on average) once every three weeks, whether the Government has assessed if eight sheets of toilet paper are sufficient to meet the daily hygiene needs of those male detainees who do not have an additional supply of toilet paper from their relatives and friends; if the assessment outcome is in the negative, whether the Government will immediately increase the quantity of toilet paper provided for each male inmate to not less than 16 sheets per day; if it will, of the time to do so; if not, whether it will assess if the Government has neglected the hygiene needs of such persons;
(b) of the respective market values of the products and services provided by CSD to various government departments, companies and organisations in the past five years; the monthly wage levels of convicted inmates working in prisons at present, as well as the respective wage amounts at different levels and numbers of convicted inmates remunerated at different wage levels; whether CSD will immediately calculate the wages of inmates working in prisons in accordance with the Minimum Wage Ordinance in order to protect their statutory rights and benefits; if it will, of the time to do so; if not, whether it will assess if CSD is exploiting the inmates; and
(c) given that the Government has already issued digital audio broadcasting (DAB) licences, whether CSD will allow inmates the choice of using digital radio sets in prisons to listen to DAB programmes of different types or languages; if it will, of the time to do so; if not, whether it is because DAB programmes impede or have impact on correctional or security work, and whether it will assess if CSD impedes the freedom of inmates (particularly those speaking non-local languages) to receive broadcast information in prisons?
(a) The Correctional Services Department (CSD) always attends to the basic needs of inmates. Given the different physiological needs of males and females, male inmates are provided with one roll of toilet paper every three weeks and female inmates are provided with two rolls each month. Each inmate may also use his/her earnings from the work in the institution to purchase tissues or other daily consumable items, snacks, etc. Should inmates need additional toilet paper, they may make a request to the staff at the institutions. CSD staff is ready to exercise discretion to accede to such requests based on the actual needs of the inmates concerned.
(b) CSD is responsible for the custody of inmates and the provision of comprehensive rehabilitative services. The daily necessities of the inmates, such as meals, clothing, hygiene items and medical service etc, are provided by the Government through CSD. In accordance with Rule 38 of the Prison Rules, Chapter 234A of the Laws of Hong Kong, all convicted adult prisoners are required to engage in work as arranged by CSD, unless they are certified by a Medical Officer of the Department as unfit for work on medical grounds.
The purpose of the work and earnings scheme for inmates is to provide earnings as an incentive for inmates to acquire good working habits and vocational skills through engagement in useful work. Inmates may purchase approved daily consumable items or snacks with their earnings, or withdraw their saved earnings upon discharge. As CSD arranges inmates to work according to the Prison Rules, the Department does not have an employer/employee relationship with inmates. Therefore, the Minimum Wage Ordinance does not apply to inmates working in correctional institutions. Moreover, given all basic necessities of inmates are provided by the Government and prices of approved daily consumable items and snacks are set with reference to inmates' purchasing power, there is no question of the level of inmates' earnings being too low to meet their basic living needs.
CSD determines the job grades according to various factors such as the types of work, the technical requirements of each position, and the working environment etc. Earning of each job grade ranges from $38.01 per week to $163.7 per week. Inmates who are unable to work due to health reasons, or newly convicted inmates who are yet to be arranged to work as they are attending the one to three-day induction courses, may receive a basic level of earnings of $20.16 per week. The job grades, their respective amounts of earnings applicable to adult inmates and the number of inmates at different earning levels as at May 2012 are at Annex.
The estimated commercial values of the industrial products and services provided by the CSD to government departments and public organisations in the past five years are as follows:
2007 $455 million
2008 $441 million
2009 $439 million
2010 $395 million
2011 $422 million
CSD provides industrial products and services to government departments and public organisations on a cost recovery basis. As only direct production costs such as material and transportation costs are recovered, no actual and additional revenue will be generated for the CSD or the Government. The "commercial value" of products and services I just mentioned are only book values with reference to the costs of similar products and services available in the market. In practice, CSD pays the material costs in advance and then proceeds with the production. Upon delivery of the products, CSD recovers the pre-paid material and transportation costs etc from the receiving departments and public organisations.
(c) Inmates have access to information on entertainment, social and current affairs through the public broadcasting on television and radio stations. In general, CSD provides television sets in dining halls and day rooms of the institutions for inmates and allows inmates to have their own radio sets of a specified model for watching television programmes or listening to radio broadcasting. Some of the current AM and FM radio stations provide programmes for audience who come from the Mainland, Philippines and Indonesia etc. Inmates of different nationalities may listen to such programmes.
So far, CSD has not received any application or request for digital radio sets from inmates. If CSD receives applications from inmates to purchase digital radio sets, they will, subject to the circumstances, give due consideration in accordance with the established mechanism.
Ends/Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Issued at HKT 15:09