Provisional Legislative Council

PLC Paper No. CB(2) 529
(These minutes have been
seen by the Administration)

Ref. : CB2/PS/1/97

Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security

Subcommittee on Overcrowdedness in Penal Institutions

Minutes of the First Meeting held on Thursday, 9 October 1997 at 4:30 pm in Conference Room B of the Legislative Council Building

Members present :

Hon Mrs Selina CHOW, JP (Chairman)
Hon Mrs Elsie TU, GBM
Hon CHENG Kai-nam
Hon LAU Kong-wah

Members absent :

Hon Henry WU]
Hon CHAN Choi-hi ] other commitments
Hon Bruce LIU Sing-lee]

Clerk in attendance :

Mrs Sharon TONG
Chief Assistant Secretary (2) 1

Staff in attendance :

Mr Paul WOO
Senior Assistant Secretary (2)5

I.Election of Chairman

Hon Mrs Selina CHOW was elected Chairman of the Subcommittee.

II.Terms of reference
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 399(01))

2.Members agreed to the terms of reference of the Subcommittee as follows :

    *To consider ways to tackle the problem of overcrowding in penal institutions in Hong Kong and to make recommendations to the Panel where necessary.*

III.Follow-up on overcrowdedness in penal institutions
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 300(02) - paper from the Administration issued on 15 September 1997 for the Security panel meeting on 18 September 1997)
(PLC Paper No. CB(2) 409(01))

3.Members noted that the subject of overcrowdedness in penal institutions had been discussed at the meeting of the Panel on Security on 18 September 1997 but there appeared to be no end solution to the problem. After going through PLC Paper No. CB(2) 409(01), members were of the opinion that additional information needed to be obtained from the Administration to facilitate further discussion on the matter.

Non-custodial options

4.Referring to the non-custodial sentencing options mentioned in PLC Paper No. CB(2) 409(01), Mr CHENG Kai-nam said that the implications of those options as to their deterrent effect and impact on the community would need to be assessed. Members decided to request the Administration to provide information with regard to : Adm

(a) the frequency and trend on non-custodial sentencing options taken by the courts; and

(b) further details on the other non-custodial options available overseas as stated in paragraph 5 of the information paper and the reasons for the Administration's decision that these options were not suitable for Hong Kong, and whether any study had been taken to arrive at the decision.Adm

Rehabilitation schemes 5.Mrs Elsie TU noted that under the Prison Rules, a prisoner might only need to serve up to two-thirds of his sentence, subject to his industry and good conduct in prison. She opined that such remission arrangements should also apply to prisoners of foreign nationality. Members decided to request the Administration to provide information with regard to :

(a) whether the remission system under the Prison Rules applied to foreign prisoners serving prison terms in Hong Kong, and to provide the number of such early release cases;

(b) the procedures for review of prisoners' sentences by the Long-term Prison Sentences Review Board; and

(c) the population of non-violent prisoners of foreign nationality and the breakdown in terms of offences committed e.g. those sentenced for using fake travel documents. Adm

Review of imprisonment of illegal workers from the Mainland

6.Mrs Elsie TU said that existing policy of imprisonment of Mainland illegal immigrants (IIs) engaged in illegal employment had failed to achieve the intended deterrent purpose as there were repeated offenders being caught. Members decided to ask the Administration to advise on the following :

  1. of the 600 Mainland IIs imprisoned for taking up illegal employment, the number of Mainland IIs who had repeated such offence;

  2. whether Vietnamese IIs found working illegally in Hong Kong would be imprisoned; and

  3. the number of inmates of foreign nationality imprisoned for committing such offence.

Transfer of prisoners to their places of origin

7.Mrs Elsie TU pointed out that she had been informed that some prisoners of foreign nationality, among them were a number of Colombian prisoners and Bolivian prisoners, had volunteered to go back to their home countries to serve the remainder of their sentences but the transfer had yet to be effected. Members decided to ask the Administration to explain on the details of the transfer procedures, with special reference to these cases. In addition, as some Mainland IIs sentenced for taking up illegal employment in Hong Kong might wish to serve their sentences in the Mainland, members would like to be briefed by the Administration on whether arrangements were in place for transfer of such Mainland IIs to Mainland China, and if not, what steps were being taken to negotiate the arrangements along the lines as provided under the Transfer of Sentenced Persons Ordinance. Adm


Estimated future shortfall in penal accommodation

8.Members noted that the problem of shortfall in penal places would still persist when the present redevelopment projects were completed by around 1999, according to the information provided in PLC Paper No. CB(2) 300(02). Members decided to request the Administration to provide more detailed information on the estimated shortfall and the means to speed up the progress of the redevelopment works. The Administration would also be asked to give details on the projects or sites that had been considered to increase penal capacity and ways of resolving the overcrowding problem.Adm

Other measures to relieve pressure on penal facilities

9.Members considered that the manpower for managing penal institutions should be based on the actual penal population in the institution in question rather than on the planned penal accommodation. Members decided to ask the Administration to report on any plan for review in this regard.Adm

10.To facilitate deliberation on ways to tackle the overcrowding problem, members also decided to request the Administration to provide information on the experience of overseas correctional authorities in resolving overcrowding in penal institutions.

Advice sought

11.Mr LAU Kong-wah said that a lecturer at the City University of Hong Kong might be able to give views on the impact and social implications of the various alternatives to imprisonment. Members agreed that such advice could be sought where necessary.

IV.Date of next meeting

12.The next meeting would be held on Tuesday, 21 October 1997 at 10:45 am.

V.Close of meeting

13.The meeting ended at 5:30 pm.

Provisional Legislative Council Secretariat
28 October 1997