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Justice ministry working on community sentencing guidelines, procedures

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Inmates in the men's section of Prey Sar prison's M1 centre. Heng Chivoan

Justice ministry working on community sentencing guidelines, procedures

The Ministry of Justice has formed an ad-hoc working team to prepare a community sentencing pilot scheme. The plans are part of wider efforts to reduce overcrowding at prisons and correction centres.

According to a February 1 announcement from Minister of Justice Koeut Rith, the working team has 19 members, and is led by ministry secretary of state Kim Santepheap.

The team is tasked with researching the terms and conditions that will apply to community sentences, and the necessary procedures for their implementation.

This will include an overall strategic plan, along with monitoring and evaluation measures, action plans, determining the ideal location for the pilot programme, as well as providing training to the various parties that will administer the scheme.

The team will regularly update the justice minister on its progress.

In January, Minister of Interior Sar Kheng said that the ministries of Interior and Justice were accelerating the implementation of community sentences. He said the courts may use the sentences for minor crimes. Minor offenders may be allowed to return home, albeit under several conditions.

“For example, a community sentence could require a convicted person to sweep rubbish or clean up public spaces in their village. Community sentences would only be given to less serious offenders, and would go some way to relieving the strain on the prison system caused by overcrowding,” he said.

Kheng said that as of December 2022, Cambodia’s prisons housed 37,000 prisoners, making them overcrowded. Of that number, 20,000 – or more than half – were detained due to drug-related offences.

Civil society organisations have long encouraged the government to implement community sentences, saying it will not only reduce overcrowding, but will save on expenditure.

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