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LCQ12: Rights of persons in custody

     Following is a question by the Hon Leung Kwok-hung and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr Lai Tung-kwok, in the Legislative Council today (July 8):


     Some prisoners and discharged prisoners have relayed to me that the Correctional Services Department (CSD) has deprived prisoners of their rights in respect of meals, wages, reading and visits by relatives and friends. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:

(1) as CSD currently provides four main dietary scales for prisoners, of the respective weekly menus of breakfast, lunch and dinner of each dietary scale, as well as the cost of each set of food; the criteria based on which CSD provides a certain type of dietary scale for a prisoner;

(2) of the criteria adopted by CSD for determining the wages of prisoners; the grounds, other than medical reasons verified by medical practitioners, on which prisoners may refuse the work arranged for them by CSD; whether prisoners will be penalised for refusing to work; if so, of the details;

(3) of the government departments and public organisations that purchased in the past five years the products made and services provided by prisoners; the respective market values of such products and services;

(4) as CSD currently requires that the relatives and friends of a prisoner may provide the prisoner with only six items of reading materials per month and that devotional books are not subject to any limit, of the criteria adopted by CSD for determining such a limit; whether CSD will consider reviewing the limit to enable prisoners to have more reading materials to read; if CSD will consider, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and

(5) given that currently the relatives and friends visiting a prisoner may only speak through a phone to the prisoner on the other side of a glass partition in a visiting room, whether CSD will allow relatives and friends to visit a prisoner under an arrangement same as that for legal advisers to visit prisoners, so that prisoners can talk to their relatives and friends without any barrier; if CSD will allow, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?



     The Correctional Services Department (CSD) is committed to providing a secure, safe, humane, decent and healthy environment for persons in custody (PICs). In this connection, CSD has formulated different procedures and guidelines in order to protect the rights of PICs, having regard to various factors such as humanity, security, law and practical needs.

     The reply to various parts of Hon Leung's question is as follows:

(1) CSD aims to provide simple and wholesome food for PICs. All the dietary scales are designed by accredited dietitians with the nutritional content agreed by the Department of Health and in compliance with international health guidelines. Having regard to the health, dietary and religious needs of PICs, CSD currently provides four main dietary scales, namely dietary scale one with rice as staple food; dietary scale two with curry and chapatti as staple food; dietary scale three with potatoes and bread as staple food; and dietary scale four comprising vegan meal. Moreover, appropriate food is given to individual PICs for medical considerations on the advice of Medical Officers. The expenses on all the dietary scales are largely similar and the average cost of the ingredients is about $168 per person per week.

(2) According to Rule 39 of the Prison Rules (Cap 234A) (PR), a PIC who works and a PIC who, through no fault of his own, is unable to work, may receive payment in accordance with rates approved by the Commissioner of Correctional Services. The main purpose of offering payment to PICs is to encourage them to build up a good working habit and acquire vocational skills by engaging them in useful work, with a view to facilitating their re-integration into society after release. The rates of pay are determined having regard to such factors as skill requirements, level of labour and responsibilities of individual work assignment.  

     Convicted adults are required to engage in work unless they are exempted on medical grounds verified by a Medical Officer of CSD. According to Rule 61 of PR, a PIC shall be guilty of an offence against prison discipline if he refuses to work. Under such circumstances, CSD may order the PIC to be punished in accordance with Rule 63 of PR.

(3) In the past five years, CSD provided products and services for government departments and public organisations. Its major clients include the Fire Services Department, the Food and Environmental Hygiene Department, the Highways Department, the Leisure and Cultural Services Department, the Police Force, the Tung Wah Group of Hospitals and the Hospital Authority. The commercial values (i.e. book values with reference to the costs of similar products and services available in the market) of the products and services provided are as follows:

2010     $395 million
2011     $422 million
2012     $381 million
2013     $364 million
2014     $461 million

(4) CSD encourages PICs to make good use of their leisure time to enrich their lives, expand their knowledge and facilitate their rehabilitation through reading. Besides borrowing from the libraries in the institutions, PICs may receive reading materials provided by relatives and friends. Due to security and storage considerations, CSD restricts the number of reading materials provided by relatives and friends to be received by each PIC to six per month, with the exception of devotional books. The institutional management may exercise discretion to handle requests by PICs for receiving more reading materials on a case-by-case basis.  At this stage, CSD has no plan to revise the existing arrangement.

(5) CSD takes into account such factors as the purpose of visits, type of institutions and security risks in considering the appropriate arrangement for each type of visits. As for social visits in prisons and drug addiction treatment centres, only closed visits are allowed due to security consideration. This is to prevent physical contact and delivery of contraband, such as drugs, to PICs. As for training centres, rehabilitation centres and detention centres where the detainees are mainly young PICs, their correctional programmes are based upon disciplinary training, reformation and character development, coupled with family support, to achieve the goal of rehabilitation. Therefore, social visits conducted in these institutions are arranged in an open manner, in order to encourage the maintenance of good communication and ties between young PICs and their relatives as well as friends, thereby improving family relations and strengthening young PICs' determination to turn over a new leaf. Official visits (including visits by lawyers) are starkly different from social visits. The former aims at facilitating access of information and discussion for official purposes between visitors and PICs, including reading and acknowledging receipt of documents. Therefore, open visits conducted in interview rooms are more appropriate. At this stage, CSD has no plan to revise the existing arrangement.

Ends/Wednesday, July 8, 2015
Issued at HKT 12:07


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