Training planned for inmates

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Prisoners water vegetables Preah Sihanouk Provincial Prison last month. General Department of Prisons

Minister of Justice Koeut Rith plans to organise a vocational training programme for inmates in Cambodian prisons so that they have the specific skills required for certain jobs and are able to earn an honest living upon leaving prison. The programme details have already been presented to the UN.

Justice ministry spokesperson Kim Santepheap told The Post on February 24 that the justice minister wanted to start a programme to provide vocational training for prisoners who are still serving their sentences so that they have the skills necessary to find employment after leaving prison.

However, he said the ministry has not set a timeframe, pending further discussions with other relevant institutions.

According to Santepheap, vocational training in prison is to prevent inmates from committing crimes when they are released and to help them re-integrate into society. Without some form of training, they may not have the abilities or skills necessary to get jobs and earn legitimate incomes.

The plan to open such a training programme was presented to the UN by the ministry in collaboration with the General Department of Prisons and the Ministry of Labour and Vocational Training.

Santepheap said: “Once they [inmates] have an occupation and income there won’t be any need to commit crimes. Integrating inmates into society and making sure they have a proper professional career is a crime prevention measure”.

Royal Academy of Cambodia (RAC) president Sok Touch said vocational training for inmates is a must because if they are released without any skills they will likely repeat their offences and end up back in prison.

“Each prison should be built with land included for gardens to grow vegetables that can then be served to the prisoners in meals or sold. And training facilities should be set up for skills such as weaving, carving, and cooking.

“Nobody should be sitting in prison with their legs crossed or just sleeping all day,” Touch said.

The interior ministry’s general department of prison’s spokesman Nuth Savana said some vocational training programmes for inmates are already available in some prisons in Cambodia, depending on the size of the prison.

Savana cited as an example the Trapeang Phlong prison in Tbong Khmum province, which has rehabilitation training programmes and a factory to produce furniture from wood and metal and other programmes to teach skills like growing vegetables and raising animals.

“We do need a strategic plan to establish these programmes in all prisons and in a way that is suitable to the size of each facility,” he said.

Soeung Sen Karuna, the senior investigator for rights group Adhoc, welcomed the initiative to provide vocational training to inmates.

“It’s a good idea. I see some prisons already have training available, but some do not. I do not know whether that’s a budget problem or some other problem preventing them from setting up a training programme, but ideally these programmes would be available to all prisoners,” he said.