The Implementation of the Bangkok Rules: the Ongoing Efforts of the Thai Prisons
By Dr. Nathee Chitsawang
Too Many Women In Prisons
Director General of Department of Corrections
In the AncillaryMeeting of the 11th UN Congress in Bangkok 2005
Considering the topic of this ancillary meeting titled “Too many women in prison”, the situation in Thailand seems to be more obvious than in other countries in the region. As seen from statistic of women prisoners in Asia and Pacific region, women prisoners in Thailand stand at 18 percent while in other countries the statistics range from 5 to 10 percent.
Actually, during the last decade, the number of women prisoners in Thailand was not exceeding 10 percent, but was rapidly increased during these ten years. The highest peak was in 2002 – 2003 where the number reached 20 percent, and has been gradually down during these couple of years. When comparing to men prisoners, dating back ten years ago the ratio was 1 to 11, but at the moment being, the ratio is 1 to 5. It is obvious that more women have committed crimes and been imprisoned.
As for type of offense committed by women, it is found that 87 percent were prisoners of drug related offense. The rest of 13 percent was other offenses such as offense against property or bodily harm. The main motives of women’s committing of drug crime might due to the economic problem that obliged them to drug involvement. Some have been cheated or forced by men. Some drug pushers have derived from drug abusers who sought financial source to buy drug while some are real pushers.
Whether or not these women prisoners are criminal that can be harmful to the society is quite difficult to identify. Some of these women prisoners obligingly became drug pushers because they were forced to or accidentally entered into drug circle without criminal mind or criminal background. These women are only consequent victims of evil society. The purpose of treatment of women prisoners in Thailand, therefore, is not merely the keeping in custody of criminal, but is to protect them from the dark side of society as well as to protect the society from harm caused by these women; since they are both crime makers and victims of crime.
In Thailand, there are 139 prisons and correctional institutions taking in custody of adult offenders. Among these numbers, only 8 facilities are women correctional institutions, which take in custody of only 47 percent of the total number of women prisoners. The rest of 53 percent is incarcerated in men’s prisons, which provide a small section for women. In women’s prisons, the inmates will receive essential rehabilitation programs and activities. However, more than half of women inmates is in men’s prisons where it is relatively difficult to get access to those rehabilitative activities.
What are the programmes provided for women prisoners in Thailand?
It is not easy to mention all rehabilitative programmes and activities for women prisoners in Thailand in a short period of time. Since apart from basic programmes consisting of prisoners’ classification, provision of formal education programmes ranging from illiterate to university level, vocational training courses, mental development, sport and recreation, and the prison and every party of the community. All the programmes are aimed to assist women prisoners to reintegrate into the society smoothly after release.
Samples of rehabilitative programmes and welfare services provided to women prisoners are:
– Handicraft making
– Computer study (Graphic design)
– Religious practice (Meditation)
– Music performance
– Prison choir
– Fashion design
– Inmate teacher project (Inmate teaching vocational skill to people)
– Contact visit, conjugal visit
– After-care programme (employment and half-way house)
During these couple of years, the number of prisoners in Thai prisons has gradually decreased. One of the measures to mitigate overcrowding problem is the treatment of drug addicted prisoners in military camp title “Vivat Polamaung Project”. Classified prisoners were given parole before undergoing the 4-month training in military camp and then were released with conditional supervision in their community.
At present, the Department of Corrections is operating the training course similar to the military programme titled “Corrections Vivat Polamaung Project”. Classified prisoners have to undergo a 4-month training before sitting for parole approval, which will enable them to be released with conditional supervision afterwards. There are 500 women prisoners being trained in this project in 2 correctional institutions. When the project is completed, number of women prisoners shall again reduce at certain extent.
This project represents the Department of Corrections’ endeavor to alleviate problem of having too many women in prisons, though the number is notwithstanding high in comparison to the actual capacity of prisons in Thailand. The problem of having too many women in prison has long been recognized and various alternatives to solve it have been continually operated.