Overcrowded prison: Govt to look into dept director’s proposal to not jail MCO violators

Jerry Choong
Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob speaks during the press conference in Putrajaya April 5, 2020. — Bernama pic

KUALA LUMPUR, April 5 — The National Security Council has agreed to look into the suggestion by the Prisons Department to not jail violators of the ongoing movement control order (MCO) over health concerns, said Defence Minister Datuk Seri Ismail Sabri Yaakob.

He said the council’s meeting today discussed the letter sent by the prison department’s director-general Datuk Seri Zulkifli Omar, in which he said the overcrowded state of Malaysian prisons could be further aggravated by nearly 400 MCO violators who have been sentenced to jail.

“The meeting agreed to let the Attorney-General’s Chambers, the police and the prison department come together to discuss the issue so that it can be resolved as soon as possible,” Ismail said during a press conference today.

The letter, which was sent to the Chief Registrar’s Office yesterday, saw Zulkifli explaining that social distancing in prisons is impossible due to the overcrowding, with the possibility of Covid-19 breaking out due to the violators’ unknown health status.

The director-general instead advocated for the courts to hand out community service punishments under the Offenders Compulsory Attendance Act 1956, in lieu of prison sentences.

Others have since come out in support of Zulkifli’s proposal, including senior lawyers and DAP veteran Lim Kit Siang, who claimed that over 73,000 prisoners are being housed in spaces originally meant to hold 52,000 inmates in 50 prison facilities nationwide.

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