LCQ13: Developing ''Smart Prison''
It is learnt that currently more than half of the 29 correctional facilities managed by the Correctional Services Department (CSD) are over 40 years old, and the CSD has sought funding approval from this Council for many times to carry out improvement works for such facilities. Moreover, the CSD has started developing since 2019 a "Smart Prison" system which makes use of innovation and technology strategies to improve correctional facilities and process innovation. However, there are comments pointing out that the works for changing the existing obsolete facilities into smart prisons involve exorbitantly huge expenditure, and they are unable to solve the staff turnover and recruitment problems which are attributable to the remote locations and traditional supervision mode of the institutions. Therefore, the Government should resume the plan for a large-scale prison complex that has been shelved for many years, with a view to developing smart prison at a faster pace and lower costs, thereby enhancing management efficiency and retaining talents, as well as releasing the precious lands originally occupied by prisons for other purposes. In this connection, will the Government inform this Council:
(1) of the CSD's plan to implement improvement and redevelopment works for the relevant institutions to address the ageing problem of existing correctional facilities;
(2) whether it has assessed (i) the expenditure to be incurred in converting the aforesaid 29 correctional facilities into smart prisons, and (ii) the expenditure to be incurred in building a large-scale smart prison complex, and if such a prison will boost management efficiency and ease the staff turnover problem; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that; and
(3) in order to resolve the problem of correctional officers having to go to work in remote areas, improve their working environment, reduce the maintenance expenses arising from ageing correctional facilities, and release the lands originally occupied for prisons for other purposes, whether the CSD will consider constructing under its redevelopment plan a full-fledged smart prison, instead of adding some smart elements to individual institutions; if so, of the details; if not, the reasons for that?
In consultation with the Correctional Services Department (CSD), a consolidated reply to the Hon Quat's question is as follows:
The CSD is committed to providing a secure, safe, humane, decent and healthy custodial environment for persons in custody (PICs). The department has also been proactively developing "Smart Prison" through the implementation of innovation and technology strategies to modernise, informatise and humanise the management mode and process innovation of correctional institutions.
Since some of the correctional facilities have been in operation for years, the CSD has been implementing various measures to improve those facilities to meet the needs of custodial and rehabilitation work, including installing electric locks security systems, upgrading the closed-circuit television systems, and promoting the development of "Smart Prison" by implementing innovation and technology projects in correctional institutions by phases. Drawing on the experience gained from the trial implementation of various technology projects, the CSD commenced renovation works at Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution in 2019 in order to convert it into the first "Smart Prison" in Hong Kong, which has come into in operation since May 2021. Depending on its actual needs, the CSD will devise and implement improvement and redevelopment plans for the correctional facilities. At the same time, the CSD will proactively evaluate the experience and effectiveness of various "Smart Prison" projects in the past, and continue to introduce smart elements into various institutions by seizing the opportunities of facility improvement works, so as to modernise the operations of correctional facilities, with a view to enhancing the efficiency and security of prison management. Taking into account the effectiveness of different systems, and subject to factors such as feasibility and resources availability, the department will roll out innovation and technology projects in the short, medium and long term according to priorities. Therefore, the expenditure involved for the development of "Smart Prison" for all the 29 correctional facilities is currently unable to be estimated.
In 2003, the CSD proposed to construct a "prison complex" at Hei Ling Chau. The proposal was eventually shelved in view of the public's objection to the proposal and call for exploring alternative development plans to address the problem of prison overcrowding at that time. The CSD has no plan to construct a "prison complex" for the time being. As the expenditure involved in such proposal will be affected by various factors such as the selected site, scope of works, technical issues, the need for associated facilities, project plan and cost, it is difficult to provide an estimated expenditure at this stage. However, the Government is willing to listen to the views of the community on the idea of developing a "prison complex". In fact, the planning and construction of every correctional institution is a substantial social investment. Any proposals to consolidate the existing correctional facilities should be carefully considered. Regarding the future prison development plan, institutional security will remain the first and foremost priority. Taking into account the actual needs and circumstances, the CSD will make a comprehensive assessment in considering feasible redevelopment and improvement works, thereby meeting the operational needs of the department. At this stage, as mentioned above, the CSD will proactively evaluate the experience and effectiveness of various "Smart Prison" projects in the past, and continue to introduce more suitable and innovative "Smart Prison" projects into various correctional institutions.
On human resource planning, the CSD has adopted various staff retention measures, including enhancing custodial efficiency and institutional security through the application of technology and review of workflow, with a view to protecting correctional officers in safely carrying out law enforcement duties and the personal safety of PICs. The development of "Smart Prison" could optimise the current working environment, thereby ensuring a more humanised and safer environment for correctional officers to perform law enforcement duties. As some of the correctional institutions are located in remote areas and where public transport services are inadequate, the CSD provides transport for its staff between designated locations and the relevant correctional institutions, thereby reducing their commute time. Vessels are also arranged to transport staff working at institutions in Hei Ling Chau at nighttime. In addition, the CSD has enhanced staff training and arranged for their enrolment in various learning programmes. This would help enhance the professionalism of correctional staff, and staff members in the Assistant Officer grade may have greater chance of internal promotion and even apply for vacancies of the Officer grade. Moreover, the department has implemented year-round recruitment for the post of Assistant Officer II since February 2018 to replenish vacancies in a timelier and regular manner. The time required for each recruitment exercise has been significantly shortened from around nine months in the past to three months. On average, there are new recruits joining the CSD every month who will be arranged to undergo recruit training.
The CSD will continue to implement measures on various fronts to enhance the overall standard of correctional services.
Ends/Wednesday, June 15, 2022
Issued at HKT 12:45
Issued at HKT 12:45