on 18 September 1997
Provisional Legislative Council
Panel on Security
Report on the Inquiry into the Circumstances
Surrounding a Violent Death of a Prisoner
in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre
This paper briefs Members on an incident involving the death of a remand prisoner in Lai Chi Kok Reception Centre (LCKRC) in 1996.
2. On 28 April 1996, a remand prisoner was found unconscious in his bed at LCKRC. He was certified dead before arrival at Princess Margaret Hospital. The High Court later established that he had been assaulted by a number of his fellow inmates. According to the evidence heard, the assault arose from a dispute over cleaning duties. There were also allegations made during the proceedings that some officers of Correctional Services Department (CSD) had failed their duties. The trials led to the conviction of nine remand prisoners.
3. In the light of the allegations in court, CSD's Inspectorate Unit conducted a detailed inquiry into the incident, paying particular attention to the operation of the present cleaner system, and whether proper procedures had been followed. The investigation revealed that the existing practice of CSD staff assigning inmates, by rotation, to clean day rooms, workshops and dormitories is proper. This system is used in other penal institutions and has proved to be generally working well. The cleaning duties are carried out under the supervision of staff. The assault took place during bedtime when the level of staff supervision was reduced. It was an isolated incident arising from personal disputes among some inmates over an inmate's cleaning work.
4. The inquiry noted that overcrowding at LCKRC might have increased the stress and tension among inmates, thus increasing the likelihood of personal conflicts among inmates. Overcrowding also makes its more difficult for LCKRC's staff to exercise close supervision and maintain order at the highest level. At the time of the incident, LCKRC was operating above capacity by about 60%.
5. CSD has taken immediate steps to improve the operation of LCKRC. Management supervision has been strengthened. Staff training has been strengthened in the areas of awareness, assertiveness and stress management, as well as the management of problematic inmates. Moreover, CSD is conducting a study on the provision of closed circuit TV surveillance inside LCKRC's dormitories to enhance the staff's supervision of inmates. Together, these measures should improve the day-to-day management at LCKRC.
6. As a long-term measure, we are considering a proposal to increase the capacity of LCKRC. We hope that through this project, overcrowding at LCKRC and the resulting stress among inmates and staff can be eased. A less crowded environment will no doubt facilitate the management of inmates.
Last Updated on 24 October 1997