The Department of Prisons in Sri Lanka recently organised the third Asia Pacific Regional Correctional Managers Conference in Colombo with the support of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). The theme of the conference was ‘Balancing Security and Humanitarian Needs in Prison.’
Since 2012 when it was first held in Manila, The Philippines, the conference has emerged as a platform for practitioners to share best practices and this year’s event enabled senior prison managers to brainstorm and deliberate on a range of issues in order to improve detention conditions and the health of prisoners.
Relating his experience on the format of the conference, Nathee Chitsawang, Advisor, Institute of Justice, Thailand, said “the style of presentation adopted by ICRC experts made the conference informative as they shared a lot of practical tips.” Going further, he noted that if prisoners are classified “…according to security and their behaviour, it will reduce the cost of imprisonment, which will also be more effective.”
Fifty participants from 12 countries – including Bangladesh, Cambodia, China, Fiji, India, Indonesia, Malaysia, Myanmar, Papua New Guinea, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Thailand – discussed concerns such as health in detention and medical ethics, classification of offenders, specific needs of women, and prison design. They also visited the Pallekele Open Prison Camp in Kandy.
Providing an overview of the conference, Dato’sri Haji Zulkifli Bin Omar, Malaysia’s Director General of Prisons, said there was so much to share with each other, as well as to benefit from. In particular, with regard to his personal experience, he affirmed that “the session on classification of prisoners provided me the way forward for my own country. Today, 9.6 % of detainees in Malaysia benefit from a community sentence (open prison). Our objective is to reach 15% by 2020, and to have 2/3 of our prisoners benefit from this by 2030.”