LCQ14: Persons in custody apply for early release from prison

     Following is a question by Dr the Hon Cheng Chung-tai and a written reply by the Secretary for Security, Mr John Lee, in the Legislative Council today (October 18):
     At present, prisoners may apply for early release through the Release under Supervision Scheme or the Pre-release Employment Scheme.  However, some discharged prisoners have complained to me that the vetting and approval criteria of the two early release schemes lack transparency.  In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the respective numbers of prisoners whose applications were received, approved and rejected under the aforesaid two schemes in each of the past five years, with a breakdown by the offences for which they were sentenced; and
(2) of a breakdown of the approved cases in (1), by whether the applicants (i) participated in religious activities, (ii) enrolled in undergraduate degree courses, (iii) had reference letters written for them by Justices of the Peace and (iv) were given promise by employers of employment after their discharge, while they were in prison?



     Persons in custody (PICs) may apply for release from prison under supervision under the Release under Supervision Scheme and the Pre-release Employment Scheme provided for in the Prisoners (Release under Supervision) Ordinance (Cap. 325) (the Ordinance).  Any PIC who is serving a determinate sentence of imprisonment of three years or more and has served not less than one-half or 20 months of that sentence (whichever is the greater) may apply for early release under the Release under Supervision Scheme.  Any PIC who is serving a determinate sentence of imprisonment of two years or more and is within six months prior to the earliest date of discharge may apply for early release under the Pre-release Employment Scheme.  Both schemes aim at facilitating PICs' early reintegration into society as law-abiding citizens.

     All PICs admitted to a correctional institution will be provided with information on the two early release schemes mentioned above.  In addition, all PICs eligible for application will be given an information booklet that provides an overview on the aims, eligibilities, application procedures and how the Release under Supervision Board considers an application etc.  PICs may also approach institutional Rehabilitation Unit staff to obtain detailed information on the schemes. 

     The Release under Supervision Board (the Board) is established pursuant to the Ordinance to consider applications for the two schemes and make recommendations.  All recommendations made by the Board are submitted to the Secretary for Security for consideration, who may exercise the powers delegated to him by the Chief Executive under the Ordinance to make decisions. 

     The Board considers every application according to the procedures and criteria stipulated by the relevant legal provisions.  For instance, pursuant to Schedule 1 of the Prisoners (Release under Supervision) Regulations (Cap. 325A) (the Regulations), the Board shall examine the reports of the Correctional Services Department and the Police Force, the reports prepared for the court of trial to assist the judge in determining sentence and the medical reports on the applicant, etc.  Furthermore, before it considers an applicant's case, the Board shall, pursuant to the Regulations, inform the applicant in writing of the right to make written representations to the Board for consideration.  The Board shall also consider factors listed in Schedule 1 of the Regulations, such as the applicant's criminal record, his conduct in prison, his ability and readiness to assume obligations and to undertake responsibilities, etc.  

     The numbers of applications considered by the Board and approved from 2012 to September 2017 are at Annex.  We do not have statistics with breakdown by the applicants' offences for which they were sentenced, whether the applicants have participated in religious activities, whether they have enrolled in undergraduate degree courses, whether they had reference letters written for them, or whether they have been given promises of employment.

Ends/Wednesday, October 18, 2017
Issued at HKT 14:10