Taiwan prison overcrowding called into question by intl. human rights experts

Official said improvement has been made over years

(Photo courtesy of the Agency of Corrections, Ministry of Justice)

Taipei (Taiwan News) - A five-day review meeting of the ROC's Second Report under the ICCPR and ICESCR was held in Taipei this week. In the review, experts address the issue of prison overcrowding in Taiwan which is considered an unacceptable violation of human rights by the attending international law experts.

The ICCPR and ICESCR are the two UN covenants on human rights.

Peer Lorenzen, a retired judge and section president of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) cited an important ruling by ECHR in 2012, saying that imprisonment in under three square meters may violate human rights.

The required living space per prisoner is far from being met in Taiwan, according to the experts, which was in part blamed for a ruling by the high court in Scotland in 2016 that rejected Taiwan’s extradition request for Zain Dean.

Dean was convicted of killing a newspaper delivery man in a hit-and-run collision while drunk in 2010. His legal team successfully argued that sending the businessman back to Taiwan contravened the European Convention on Human Rights as the conditions of jails in Taiwan were poor and that Dean was under threat of attack.

According to a state report submitted by Taiwan, the country’s prison population has reached 63,045 as of December 22, 2015, far exceeding its approved capacity of 55,676, meaning its prison system was running at 13.23 percent overcapacity. With that, the average allotted space per female prisoner was less than three square meters.

The review meeting this week also noted that the prison population in Taiwan was also high at 300 per 100,000, mostly serving for drug-related crimes, and urged Taiwan's government to come up with solutions to deal with the human rights issue, including allocating more budgets to expand prison space or offering correctional education as a crime control program to reduce the prisoner population.

In response to the call, Huang Chun-tang, the newly-appointed chief of the Agency of Corrections, Ministry of Justice, told reporters recently that the ministry has been working on improvements, which can be proved by a reduction of overcapacity from 18 percent to the latest 8.9 percent as of January 16, 2017, while some jail expansion projects are also underway.