Building of Malaysia’s ‘largest’ prison not helpful in addressing overcrowding or root issues of crime, say experts and NGO

·2-min read
Malay Mail
Malay Mail

KUALA LUMPUR, June 21 — Experts and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) greeted the Home Ministry’s announcement regarding the construction of what will be Malaysia’s largest prison with criticism, saying that it will not address issues of overcrowding or crime.

The construction of the new prison in Kelantan, which is slated for completion in 2027, hopes to address the congestion within prisons in the East Zone.

“The building of this new prison will merely help in minimising the problem, not resolving it,” said Datuk Sundramoorthy Pathmanathan, a criminology professor with Universiti Sains Malaysia (USM).

He explained that congestion in prisons lead to logistical problems such as disruption to the relationship between inmates and personnel as well as failure to meet standards of living for prisoners recommended by the United Nations.

His sentiments were shared by Amnesty International Malaysia (AIM) as well, who responded to an inquiry by Malay Mail by saying: “The solution to poor and inhumane prison conditions and the overcrowding of prisons is not to build more prisons.”

“We need to take these immense resources used to incarcerate people and divert it more meaningfully towards holistic justice and fulfilling fundamental human rights,” the NGO for human rights said.

Another USM criminologist, Genisha Ayu Mat Saat, said that taxpayers’ money could have been better spent on alternatives such as proactive crime prevention measures.

“By significantly addressing the psychosocial and criminogenic factors underlying delinquency or criminality, the likelihood of committing crimes would be less, subsequently the need for prisons and other forms of penalties would also be lessened,” she said.

If the root causes are not addressed, such as non-violent, non-serious, first-time offenders being sent to jail, Sundramoorthy warned that the new prison would soon be overcrowded as well.

“Unless we have a clear-cut philosophy and principles in relationship to crime and punishment, building of prisons alone will not resolve the issue,” he said.

In relation to this, AIM stated that what it thinks should be done instead is: “address the root causes of issues, to invest in communities, to ensure there is accountability and oversight over police powers, and to make sure there is meaningful access to justice for all”.

According to the website World Prison Brief, the Malaysian prison occupancy rate was at 113.5 per cent as of August last year.

On Sunday, deputy secretary-general (Management) of the Home Ministry, Datuk Mohd Sayuthi Bakar, told national news agency Bernama that as Malaysia’s largest prison, the facility to be built in Ketereh, Kota Baru, will be able to accommodate 3,000 prisoners and the land acquisition process for the project will be completed this year.

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