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New rule aims to curb corruption in prisons

By Zhang Yan and Cao Yin (China Daily) Updated: 2014-08-27 06:58

Tighter supervision proposed for parole, sentence reductions

A rule on serving sentences outside prison is in the works and will be issued soon in an effort to curb corruption of prison officials and ensure better supervision of inmates, prison authorities said.

Yuan Qiguo, head of the procuratorial supervision department under the Supreme People's Procuratorate said that illegal granting of parole, sentence reductions and sentences outside prison can easily occur based on the evaluation of an inmate's performance, identifying their contributions and for medical reasons.

In a high-profile case, Zhang Hai, former board chairman of beverage giant Jianlibao Group Co in Guangdong province, got his sentence reduced by five years in a second court trial and later by another four years through bribery.

The provincial prison staff helped Zhang forge various documents to indicate he had made great contributions and deserved a commutation. Zhang was released in 2011, after which he fled abroad with his girlfriend.

To keep corrupt officials and rich inmates from serving shorter sentences or falsely obtaining medical parole, the Ministry of Justice decided to issue the rule clarifying what kind of people can serve sentences outside prison and under what circumstances, said Li Yuqian, deputy director of the ministry's prison management bureau.

"All prison staff members must increase their awareness and take responsibility in handling cases of commutation, parole and serving sentences outside jail, and corrupt prison officers will face harsher punishment," Li said.

Under a requirement raised by the Commission for Political and Legal Affairs of the Communist Party of China Central Committee at the beginning of this year, prison officers should strictly deal with reduced sentences and parole of corrupt officials and inmates convicted of economic and gang-related crimes, Li said.

By the July, Chinese prisons handled 1,840 cases of sentences outside jail, 247,096 commutations and 19,527 paroles, the ministry said.

Prisons in some provinces, including Guizhou and Jiangsu provinces, now have clearly outlined responsibilities of staff members in charge of parole and commutation and have disclosed each step via a hotline and WeChat instant messaging to help supervise prison officers, he said.

Ruan Chuansheng, a criminal lawyer in Shanghai, agreed to the need for refining the rules for commutation and parole, saying the specific regulation will reduce corruption in prisons.

Under current law, an inmate who becomes ill in prison can be medically paroled, but Ruan said the law is inspecific and could easily lead to prison corruption.

"The rule is too vague. It provides more chances and power for prison officers to blindly identify inmates' contributions that are useful for commutation, parole or serving sentences outside of prison," Ruan said.

He confirmed that some corrupt officials in his city would have an easier time getting a sentence reduction and medical parole, adding that the situation leads to lax supervision in prison.

"It's a must to clarify the current rule because the more details it supplies, the more limits prison officers face. As their power is restricted, the chances they have to be corrupt are reduced," he added.

Contact the writers at zhangyan1@chinadaily.com.cn and caoyin@chinadaily.com.cn

(China Daily 08/27/2014 page4)

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