Correctional Services Department Annual Review 2022 (with photos)

     The following is the translation of the speech given by the Commissioner of Correctional Services, Mr Wong Kwok-hing, at the annual press conference today (February 23):


     In 2022, despite the formidable challenges posed to the Correctional Services Department (CSD) by the severe epidemic, all correctional officers rose to the challenges and remained committed to their duties to ensure a secure, safe, humane, decent and healthy custodial environment with perseverance and professionalism. In view of the increasing number of people involved in the black-clad violence or contravening the National Security Law having been remanded or sentenced, the CSD has enhanced its rehabilitation programmes and strengthened collaboration with all stakeholders to help persons in custody reintegrate into society after release. In addition, we have stepped up our efforts to promote community education, instilling in young people the messages of "safeguarding our country and home, leading a law-abiding and drug-free life as well as supporting offender rehabilitation", in a bid to nurture young people to be future leaders of society. 

(1) Overview of Penal Population and Supervisees

     Last year, the number of new admissions (including convicted persons, remands and detainees) markedly decreased to 13 246 persons from 15 311 persons in 2021, representing a decrease of 13 per cent. Notwithstanding the decrease in new admissions, the average daily penal population at correctional facilities in 2022 was 7 613 persons, similar to the corresponding figure of 7 616 in 2021. The average daily occupancy rate remained at 67 per cent. Among the penal population,   

(i) 63 per cent were sentenced persons, 35 per cent were remands, and the remaining two per cent were persons detained under the Immigration Ordinance (2021: 69 per cent were sentenced persons, 30 per cent were remands and one per cent were detainees); 

(ii) 81 per cent were males and 19 per cent were females (similar to the corresponding figures in 2021);

(iii) 94 per cent were aged 21 or above and six per cent were aged under 21 (similar to the corresponding figures in 2021); and

(iv) 75 per cent were Hong Kong residents, eight per cent were non-Hong Kong residents of Chinese nationality and 17 per cent were non-Hong Kong residents of other nationalities (2021: 72 per cent were Hong Kong residents, 10 per cent were non-Hong Kong residents of Chinese nationality and 18 per cent were non-Hong Kong residents of other nationalities). 

     It should be noted that the average daily number of remands hit again a decade high, from 2 316 persons in 2021 to 2 666 in 2022, representing an increase of 15 per cent. As the number of adult male remands has been on the increase, the CSD is planning to partially redevelop Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre in-situ to increase its capacity by 410 places so as to alleviate its overcrowding problem. The project has been approved by the Town Planning Board, and a funding proposal is expected to be submitted to the Legislative Council (LegCo) in mid-2023.

     Last year, the number of admissions to correctional institutions owing to involvement in offences relating to the black-clad violence (including unlawful assembly, possession of an offensive weapon, arson, taking part in a riot, etc) and the contravention of the National Security Law stood high at 829 (22 of them were involved in the contravention of the National Security Law). Compared to 985 persons in 2021, the number of such admissions dropped by 156 persons, representing a decrease of 16 per cent. Among them, 

(i) 456 were sentenced persons, while the remaining 373 were remands;
(ii) 650 were males and 179 were females; and
(iii) 671 were aged 21 or above and 158 were aged under 21.

     As at the end of 2022, the number of persons in custody involved in the black-clad violence or contravening the National Security Law was 522, representing an increase of 26 per cent as compared with 415 persons in 2021.

     The number of newly admitted persons in custody of high security risk (i.e. Category A) in 2022 was 160. Among them, 55 per cent were involved in drug-related offences, 30 per cent in murder or manslaughter, and the remaining 15 per cent in other serious offences. Among those newly admitted Category A persons in custody, 17 per cent were non-Hong Kong residents. As at the end of 2022, the total number of Category A persons in custody was 603, representing an increase of seven per cent as compared with 564 in 2021.

     Apart from managing persons in custody, the CSD also provides statutory supervision to rehabilitated offenders to facilitate their reintegration into society. As at the end of last year, 1 193 persons were still under statutory supervision, representing an increase of 15 per cent as compared with 1 035 persons at the end of 2021.

(2) Custodial Work

     It is our foremost mission to provide a safe and secure custodial environment to facilitate the rehabilitation of persons in custody. The department all along aims to enhance governance and upholds the principle of staying vigilant and tackling challenges without fear. To this end, the department keeps reviewing and enhancing its daily management, preventive measures, contingency plans as well as facilities and equipment in order to proactively curb all illicit activities and acts of indiscipline at correctional institutions.

     The department has recorded no successful escape case for 15 years in a row from 2008 to 2022. Although staff deployment was seriously affected by the rampant epidemic last year, the department continued to adopt the nip-it-in-the-bud strategy. A total of 12 485 joint search/special search/night raid operations were conducted in correctional institutions, covering 20 464 locations, which were similar to the corresponding figures in 2021.

     The department also continued to adopt a "zero tolerance" strategy to stop the smuggling of drugs into correctional institutions. Last year, there were six cases of seized drugs, representing a decrease of 54 per cent as compared with 13 cases in 2021. Four of the cases involved body-cavity concealment of drugs found in newly admitted persons in custody through the use of an X-ray body scanner; the remaining two cases involved drugs found in the mails sent to persons in custody. The department will continue to step up its efforts in stamping out the smuggling of drugs into correctional institutions to ensure a safe and secure custodial environment.  

     Last year, the number of disciplinary charges against persons in custody was 4 564. Counted against the penal population, there were 600 disciplinary cases per 1 000 persons in custody, representing a decrease of 13 per cent as compared with 692 cases in 2021. The top three charges were "offending good order and discipline", "possession of any unauthorised article" and "disobeying the orders of correctional officers", which accounted for 30 per cent, 28 per cent and 18 per cent of the total number of disciplinary charges respectively. Last year, there were 2 640 persons in custody subject to disciplinary charges, representing a decrease of 339 persons as compared with 2 979 persons in 2021. Among them, 406 committed disciplinary offences for three or more times, involving 1 801 disciplinary charges, which accounted for 39 per cent of the total number of disciplinary charges. 

     Last year, a total of 361 cases involving violent acts were recorded, representing a decrease of 21 per cent as compared with 455 cases in 2021. These cases mainly involved fighting among persons in custody and assaulting others. Among these cases, 16 cases of a more serious nature were referred to the Police for follow-up, representing a decrease of 33 per cent as compared with 24 cases in 2021. The number of correctional officers who were injured while stopping violent acts was 12, same as that in 2021.

     In 2022, five cases of concerted acts of indiscipline in correctional institutions were recorded, representing a decrease of three cases over 2021. These acts of indiscipline mainly involved fighting among persons in custody and collective hunger strikes against the management measures of correctional institutions. The number of participants involved was 40 in total. Among these cases, one case was a collective hunger strike which occurred in Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution, while the remaining four cases were group fights which occurred in Stanley Prison, Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre, Hei Ling Chau Correctional Institution and Tai Lam Correctional Institution respectively.

     The drop in disciplinary cases did not mean reduced challenges for correctional officers. In fact, it was the result of correctional officers standing fast to their posts, strengthening intelligence collection and stepping up inspections to maintain the good order and discipline among persons in custody. Another reason could be that some persons in custody had to be put under quarantine during the epidemic, leading to fewer group activities inside correctional institutions.

     Last year, the Regional Response Team (RRT) carried out six operations to support the security work of correctional institutions, similar to the five operations in 2021. The operations involved the handling of incidents like group fights and collective hunger strikes. The number of high-risk escort cases decreased from 357 in 2021 to 342 in 2022, representing a decrease of four per cent.  

     Apart from combating illicit activities and acts of indiscipline among persons in custody, correctional officers must stay vigilant at all times to detect and stop the self-harm acts by persons in custody. A total of 42 self-harm cases were recorded last year (2021: 44 cases). While correctional officers were able to stop most of the self-harm cases in time, three male persons in custody died despite rescue effort in 2022. Those cases have been referred to the Police for investigation and subsequent death inquests will be conducted.

     In recent years, owing to the rising prevalence of chronic diseases and the large number of persons in custody with a history of drug abuse and special medical needs, the demand for medical and healthcare treatment from persons in custody has been increasing, leading to the continued increase in the number of medical escorts. Human resources required for conducting medical escorts increased from about 44 700 man days in 2021 to about 45 300 man days in 2022. 

     Following the first confirmed case of COVID-19 infection concerning a person in custody during the fifth wave of the epidemic in early February last year, the virus spread quickly in correctional institutions. At the peak of the epidemic in early March, 55 per cent of persons in custody were put under isolation and 17 per cent of correctional officers were unable to report duty. In order to alleviate the burden on the public healthcare system, the department, having consulted the Centre for Health Protection, took immediate countermeasures including vacating Cape Collinson Correctional Institution, Sha Tsui Correctional Institution and Phoenix House for use as temporary isolation facilities, setting up quarantine and isolation zones in correctional institutions to cope with the surging confirmed and close-contact cases. Besides, in order to control the flow of people and reduce the risk of infection, the department once suspended the visit arrangement by external parties, while implementing the "lock-up routine" and "holiday routine" in stages and proactively encouraging persons in custody to receive COVID-19 vaccination within the correctional institutions. After the epidemic situation levelled off, the temporary arrangements have gradually been cancelled and correctional institutions have also fully resumed normal operation. During the fifth wave of the COVID-19 epidemic, only two infected persons in custody were sent to public hospitals for treatment for a short period of time. With the concerted efforts of the Medical Officers seconded from the Department of Health and all correctional officers, the department overcame various challenges and managed to contain the epidemic in correctional institutions.

(3) Rehabilitation

     Established in 1998, the Rehabilitation Division has been in operation for 25 years. Over the years, the CSD has established close collaboration with community stakeholders to help persons in custody rehabilitate and reintegrate into society through diversified rehabilitation programmes.

     Since the outbreak of the black-clad violence in 2019, a large number of radical lawbreakers involved in violent acts have been remanded or convicted. To address their special rehabilitation needs, the department introduced the "Project PATH" to help them disengage from radical thoughts and violent behaviours progressively. The project is pursued along three focused rehabilitation directions, namely "understanding Chinese history and strengthening national education", "psychological reconstruction and re-establishment of values", and "life planning and rebuilding of family relationships", with dedicated case managers carrying out regular assessment and providing follow-up service so as to offer appropriate matching rehabilitation programmes to these persons in custody. 

     The department has launched an educational programme entitled "Understanding History is the Beginning of Knowledge" to assist young persons in custody to learn Chinese history and enhance their sense of national identity. Through diversified learning modes and activities encompassing technological elements, young persons in custody can learn about the long history and rich culture of China and appreciate the beauty of Chinese culture in an interesting way.
     To better assist young persons in custody to develop positive values and mindsets, the department set up the "Youth Lab" at Pik Uk Correctional Institution last July to strengthen their psychological resilience and emotion regulation through pro-social orientation psychological therapies. In October 2022, a psychological service centre entitled "Change Lab" was established in the community to help young people under statutory supervision develop a positive mindset and build positive family relationships, thereby enabling them to face various pressure and challenges after incarceration.

     In order to create more opportunities for upward mobility for rehabilitated persons, the department has adopted a two-pronged approach focusing on further studies and employment. The department launched "Project JET" last October to provide persons in custody with one-stop training and career development opportunities. Activities under the project include life planning, in-house training, post-release internship and official employment, and a mentoring scheme is provided as well. Moreover, the CSD and the Hong Kong Metropolitan University signed a Memorandum of Understanding last October to affirm the long-term partnership in education, so as to provide more comprehensive support including enhanced financial assistance, credit transfers and programme articulation for persons in custody who wish to continue to enrol in tertiary programmes.

     The provision of rehabilitation services by non-governmental organisations (NGOs) at correctional institutions and the social visit service has been affected during the epidemic. Nonetheless, the department set up multi-purpose family and rehabilitation service centres in Shau Kei Wan and Sheung Shui respectively last year. On one hand, the service centres provide pre-booked video visit service for relatives and friends of persons in custody in need. On the other hand, NGOs can continue to provide rehabilitation services to persons in custody remotely via video conferencing. The remaining two multi-purpose family and rehabilitation service centres located in Sha Tin and Tuen Mun will also commence service in March this year, so as to strengthen support for persons in custody and their connection with families and friends.

     The CSD arranges for convicted adult persons in custody to engage in work according to the law. The introduction of high-end production facilities (such as a computerised concrete batching plant, computer panel saw, steam tunnel finisher equipped with garment folding robots and sorting system, etc) last year not only boosts productivity, but also enables persons in custody to acquire up-to-date skills and generic knowledge, such as quality management and occupational safety and health regulations, so as to enhance their employability in different sectors and facilitate their smooth reintegration into society after release.

     The department provides 13 market-oriented vocational training courses to young persons in custody, and 44 vocational training courses with more than 1 400 training places for lawfully residing adult persons in custody who are due for discharge within 24 months and eligible for employment to enrol on a voluntary basis. New courses organised last year included Maintenance of Air Conditioner Training Course and Diploma in Computer Graphics Course. This year, the department plans to organise additional courses including Certificate for Safety Supervisors Course, Foundation Certificate in Pastry Cook Training Course and Creative Multimedia Technology Training Course. All the courses are co-organised with local training bodies, and are recognised under the Hong Kong Qualifications Framework (HKQF) or accredited by the market, which facilitate the employment of rehabilitated persons or help them enrol in bridging or progressive courses.   

     The overall passing rate of vocational training examinations was 99.2 per cent last year (98.8 per cent and 100 per cent for adult and young persons in custody respectively). Their employment rates after six months of employment follow-up period upon release were 82.1 % and 83% respectively.

     On education, the overall passing rate of public examinations taken by persons in custody was 77.4 per cent last year (71.4 per cent and 81.9 per cent for adult and young persons in custody respectively). One person in custody obtained a total of 20 marks in six papers under the Hong Kong Diploma of Secondary Education Examination. Another two met the general entrance requirements for local universities. Moreover, five adult persons in custody were awarded bachelor's degrees.

     Over the years, the department has been promoting offender rehabilitation and appealing to the public to support and accept rehabilitated offenders so as to reduce their re-offending risks, thereby building a safer and more inclusive society. In the past 20 years and so, based on the year of discharge, Hong Kong's recidivism rate (the percentage of re-admission of local persons in custody to correctional institutions following conviction for a new offence within two years after discharge) has recorded a significant decrease from 39.9 per cent in 2000 to 23.3 per cent in 2020. The encouraging result reflects the hard work of correctional officers, the determination of persons in custody and rehabilitated offenders to turn over a new leaf, as well as the support for offender rehabilitation from all sectors of the community. We would like to extend our sincere gratitude to all sectors of the community for the solid support over the years.

     The recidivism rate increased by 2.4 percentage points in 2020 as compared with that (20.9 per cent) in 2019. The recidivism rate of young offenders decreased from 13.3 per cent in 2019 to 12.2 per cent in 2020, representing a decrease of 1.1 percentage points, while the recidivism rate of adult offenders increased by 2.6 percentage points from 21.3 per cent in 2019 to 23.9 per cent in 2020.

(4) Community Education

     Launched in 2008, the Rehabilitation Pioneer Project (RPP) aims to promote law-abidingness and inclusiveness among young people by organising various community education activities for them. The department has kept abreast with the times and spared no efforts in introducing innovative ideas into the activities. In November last year, the CSD launched the "Rehabilitation Express", the 12th brand-new activity, to expand the target participants of the RPP activities to also cover primary school students besides secondary ones. A promotion vehicle would be arranged to visit primary schools in various districts across the territory. National security, national education, crime prevention, anti-drug and support for rehabilitation messages would be promoted to primary school students through electronic games and a newly emerged sport. 

     Moreover, the CSD expanded the establishment of the Rehabilitation Pioneer Leaders (RPLs) to cover all three regions, namely the Hong Kong Island, Kowloon and the New Territories, last year, with the total number of trainees increasing to over 230 (an increase of 35 per cent as compared with the figure in late 2021). Chinese-style foot drill practice and flag-raising training have been strategically included in the training which, together with a series of cultural activities, can strengthen RPL trainees' sense of national identity.

     Last year, a total of 25 099 participants joined the RPP activities, including 23 777 young participants, representing an increase of 18 per cent as compared to 20 146 in 2021. The activities were well received and drew positive response from the community.

(5) Human Resource

     In 2022, a total of 55 Officers and 162 Assistant Officers II were recruited. As at December 31, 2022, there were 740 vacancies for disciplined staff, accounting for 11 per cent of the overall establishment of the department. To relieve the manpower strain, the CSD continued to implement the Post-retirement Service Contract Scheme, and a total of 226 retirees were recruited as at the end of 2022. About 80 Officers are expected to be recruited this year, and the year-round recruitment for the post of Assistant Officer II will continue to fill the relevant vacancies.

     In addition, in 2022, the department continued to work closely with different support service centres for ethnic minorities and schools. Various types of activities were organised to attract non-ethnic Chinese youths to apply for the vacancies of the CSD. As at end-2022, there were a total of 54 non-ethnic Chinese correctional officers in the department.  

     To enhance the professionalism of correctional officers, the department has been making its best endeavours to optimise its training courses and raise their recognition and professional level. On July 1, 2022, the Correctional Services Department Staff Training Institute was retitled as the Hong Kong Correctional Services Academy (HKCSA). As at end-2022, the HKCSA offered seven training courses recognised under the HKQF, including a HKQF Level 6 course entitled "Postgraduate Certificate in Correctional Governance and Leadership" (pitched at the same QF Level as a local Master's Degree) co-organised with a local tertiary institution, which is the first of its kind in Asia.

(6) Application of Innovation and Technology

     Since the first-generation "Smart Prison" at Tai Tam Gap Correctional Institution came into operation in mid-2021, the department has kept conducting trials in individual institutions, using innovation and technology to assist the institutional management in raising management efficiency and strengthening the self-management ability of persons in custody. Trial projects with the application of innovation and technology introduced last year included the "Robotic Monitoring System 2.0" at Shek Pik Prison, "Persons in Custody e-Message Platform" at Stanley Prison, "Contactless Vital Sign Detection System" at Siu Lam Psychiatric Centre, etc. In early 2022, the department secured funding from the Finance Committee of LegCo for the installation of "Persons in Custody Integrated Intelligent Communication System" in correctional institutions. When the system is in full operation, it is expected that the efficiency of institutional operations and management will be enhanced, while the link between persons in custody and their friends and relatives be strengthened, which is conducive to their rehabilitation. 

(7) Priorities in the Coming Year

     In the coming year, the CSD will continue to introduce new initiatives in custodial work, rehabilitation and community education.

     On custodial work, the CSD will continue to enhance operational efficiency by introducing technological elements into correctional facilities, including the full implementation of the "Integrated Custodial and Rehabilitation Management System" in all correctional institutions in July this year, and the installation of the "Persons in Custody Integrated Intelligent Communication System" and the "Electric Locks Security System" in different institutions progressively.

     In addition, the CSD will provide additional training facilities and equipment in the training base of the RRT to enhance team members' tactical skills and emergency response capability.

     The department will enhance rehabilitation work on all fronts, including strengthening the determination of persons in custody to rehabilitate, extending the reach of rehabilitation programmes beyond the prison walls, and seek wider support for and participation in the rehabilitation work from all sectors of the community.
     The department will set up a psychological and family counselling service centre, "Reconnect Hub", designed for adult supervisees under statutory supervision in the Shatin Multi-purpose Family and Rehabilitation Service Centre, which will come into operation in March this year, so as to extend the provision of psychological and family counselling service during incarceration to follow-up service in the community.
     In addition, the department will set up three parent-child centres (located on Hei Ling Chau, in Tong Fuk Correctional Institution and Stanley Prison respectively) this year, aiming at enhancing the relationships between adult male persons in custody and their family members, so as to strengthen their determination to rehabilitate through family support. The department will collaborate with a local university and an NGO to study the effectiveness of parent-child centres in correctional institutions for male offenders and how to reduce intergenerational offending.

     The department also plans to establish the Rehabilitation College this year to offer full-time continuing education programmes for adult persons in custody to enrol on a voluntary basis, so that they can better equip themselves for smooth reintegration into society. 

     Furthermore, the department plans to introduce the Rehabilitation Partners Award Scheme this year to give recognition to individuals or groups, including NGOs, enterprises, employers, etc, for their continuous support for rehabilitation work, so as to encourage all sectors of the community to participate in the award scheme, thereby enlisting the support of the whole community for rehabilitated persons.  

     As regards community education, the RPP will continue to aim at disseminating the key messages of "safeguarding our country and home, leading a law-abiding and drug-free life as well as supporting offender rehabilitation". We will also step up our efforts in fostering devotion to our country and home among young people as well as strengthening their sense of being the masters of society.

     Arrangements will be made for RPLs to participate in exchange tours to the Greater Bay Area, and enrol in two training courses recognised under the HKQF, namely "Certificate in Criminology and Criminal Justice in Hong Kong" and "Certificate in Positive Traits and Healthy Life", so as to enhance their understanding of the motherland and sense of national identity as well as to strengthen the positive value of law-abidingness.

     The department will also strive to encourage young leaders to be actively involved in public affairs in order to unleash their leadership potential. The department will arrange for them to take charge of the production of the "Captain Gor" YouTube channel under the RPP, and to visit primary schools in various districts across the territory on board the promotion vehicle "Rehabilitation Express" to promote the RPP's four key community education messages to primary school students in the capacity of mentors.  

     In addition, the department will apply the concept of metaverse into the RPP to allow more young people to participate in our community education activities at the same time despite geographical constraints. The department will also roll out an official Instagram page to enable more youngsters to understand the meaningful work of the CSD. Not only can this attract young people to apply for the vacancies of the CSD, this also can facilitate the dissemination of messages on national security, national education, crime prevention, anti-drug and support for rehabilitation.  

Ends/Thursday, February 23, 2023
Issued at HKT 17:15