More than 51,000 COVID-19 cases in Malaysia’s prisons; overcrowding is an issue: Deputy minister
KUALA LUMPUR: More than 51,000 individuals including inmates, prison staff and their family members have contracted COVID-19 since last year, said Deputy Home Minister Ismail Mohamed Said.
Speaking in parliament on Tuesday (Sep 28), Dr Ismail said figures from the Prison Department showed a total of 51,123 individuals comprising prison inmates, staff and their family members had contracted COVID-19.
They included nine babies who were born in prison.
He was responding to a supplementary question from opposition lawmaker RSN Rayer who asked if there were any plans by the prison department to vaccinate the inmates.
The Jelutong MP said that many court cases had been affected by the COVID-19 infections in prison which had affected the inmates as well as their family members.
He said that prison inmates should also be vaccinated and be given the best vaccine available.
The deputy minister replied that his ministry would ensure that prison staff and inmates are given the vaccine.
"I'm confident that the Home Ministry always ensures that all of its staff and inmates in prison will receive the vaccine," he said.
STEPS TO REDUCE OVERCROWDING
Earlier in the day, the deputy minister, citing statistics from the Prison Department, noted that there is an overcrowding issue in the prison system.
The current number of inmates stands at 69,507, he said. This is 13.5 per cent more than the prison capacity nationally, which is 61,200.
Dr Ismail said several steps have been taken to reduce overcrowding, including by relocating the inmates to less crowded prisons, converting former national service training camps into “satellite” prisons and setting up transit centres in the prisons for low-risk convicts and detainees.
There are also plans to allow about two-thirds of inmates who have been deemed suitable to undergo corrective programmes outside prison to do so under various community programmes.
Under the 12th Malaysia Plan tabled on Monday, the government plans to enhance the management and operations of prisons, including to improve detention centres as well as their rehabilitation and correctional programmes.
In June this year, the All Party Parliamentary Group Malaysia for the Reform of Prisons and All Places of Detention (APPGM) expressed its concerns over growing cases of COVID-19 infections in the prisons.
The group, comprising backbenchers from both sides of the political divide, were quoted as saying by Malay Mail that COVID-19 cases in the prisons across the country had threatened the lives of the inmates, prison staff, their families and the communities at large.
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