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LCQ6: Engaging prisoners in useful work

    Following is a reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Ambrose S K Lee, to a question by the Hon Martin Lee on engaging prisoners and inmates in industrial work in the Legislative Council today (December 19):


     It has been learnt that every day in Hong Kong, about 7,500 prisoners and inmates are engaged in various types of industrial work (including the production of traffic signs, office furniture, concrete products, shoes, uniforms and linen, litter containers, metal barriers and envelopes, as well as the provision of services such as laundry, printing, and book-lamination, etc.) in workshops operated by the Industries Section of the Correctional Services Department.  One of the objectives to engage prisoners and inmates in such work is to help them understand quality concepts and acquire some technical skills in different trades which will be beneficial for their rehabilitation.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(a) apart from providing goods and services for government departments, how the above work can enhance the trade and vocational skills of prisoners and inmates; and

(b) whether it has considered extending the trades currently covered by the Correctional Services Industries ("CSI") to those trades and work that require higher skills (e.g. computer operation and typing, basic web page design and telephone operator services, etc.), so as to further develop the vocational skills of prisoners and inmates, and whether it had conducted any studies in the past five years on widening the scope of CSI; if it had, of the results?


Madam President,

(a) The Correctional Services Department (CSD) arranges for adult prisoners to engage in useful work in accordance with Rule 38 of the Prison Rules (Cap 234A), which lays down the requirement of work for prisoners.  The purpose of engaging prisoners in work is to help them establish a living pattern with an organised schedule for work and rest, and lead a disciplined and orderly institutional life.

     The Correctional Services Industries (CSI) currently operate 142 workshops covering various trades, which include garment making, knitting, leather products, sign-making, metalwork, pre-cast concrete products, laundry services, carpentry, fibreglass products, bookbinding, printing and envelope making.  Most of the products and services provided by these workshops are supplied to government departments and subvented organisations.

     Due to the unique nature of prison workshops, CSD has to consider and balance various factors before introducing a new type of workshop into the penal system.  These factors include security arrangements, the categories and background of prisons to be employed in the new workshops, and the implications to prison operation.  For certain types of jobs which require higher skills, e.g. computer-aided procedures in printing and garment making currently used in CSI workshops, the prisoners must undergo a longer period of training to master the relevant skills.  Therefore, such jobs would not be suitable for prisoners with a short prison term or those with low academic qualifications.

     That said, CSI will from time to time explore and introduce new types of jobs to upgrade the trade and vocational skills of prisoners, so as to enhance their self-confidence in finding jobs and their chance to become self-reliant when they return to the society.  However, it is still necessary for CSI to retain certain low-skilled jobs, such as laundry and simple manual work, to meet the actual needs of different types of prisoners in the penal institutions.

(b) In order to keep pace with the social development in Hong Kong and to meet the needs of prisoners, CSD has been conducting annual reviews on the types of trades it provides.  In response to the results of these reviews, CSI have introduced several types of trades and jobs that require higher skills over the past few years.  For example:

* multimedia digital design workshops for computer-aided piece cutting and computer-aided graphic and three-dimensional design were established for the long-term prisoners in Shek Pik Prison and Stanley Prison in 2000;

* new jobs on computer numerically-controlled and laser cutting were created for medium-term prisoners in Pak Sha Wan Correctional Institution in 2002;

* the patented technique for manufacturing Gore-tex waterproof and vapour permeable shoes was introduced in Stanley Prison in 2002;

* ultrasonic sewing techniques for manufacturing filter masks were introduced in Chi Sun Correctional Institution in 2003, broadening the types of jobs available to short-term prisoners; and

* upgraded sewing techniques were introduced in the garment workshop in Stanley Prison recently in 2007, so as to facilitate the production of more technically demanding windproof and vapour permeable uniforms.

     Apart from the opportunity to improve their vocational skills through daily work in the workshops, eligible prisoners may also apply to attend pre-release vocational training courses run by CSD for local prisoners.  These include courses offered by Lai Sun Correctional Institution Vocational Training Centre and short training courses provided at other adult institutions.  These courses are targeted at local adult prisoners who are due to be released in three to 24 months, with the aim of providing them with pre-release vocational training so as to help them find jobs and re-integrate back into the society as soon as possible after their release from prison.

Ends/Wednesday, December 19, 2007
Issued at HKT 15:01


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