Legislature reviewing early prison release mechanism

Wednesday, June 9, 2010
Issue 1033, Page 5
Word count: 461
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The Legislative Assembly is studying the possibility of amending the Code of Criminal Procedure and the Penal Code upon receiving a petition from an inmate’s family regarding the early release mechanism.

The petition was delivered to the legislature on May 10, requesting to revise related laws and also to clearly define that inmates can be released from the prison automatically without applications and a court approval, as long as they reach certain objective requirements.

According to the existing regulations, inmates can apply for release on parole after completing two thirds of the sentence with a minimum period of six months. The prison warden and social workers will write reports based on the inmate’s conduct and then submit them to the court. The judge will make the final decision after taking into consideration of the assessment reports and what kind of impact approving an early release may bring to society.

President of the Third Standing Committee Cheang Chi Keong said the meeting yesterday was mainly to make the family’s demands clear and also to listen to the two legal advisors’ advice.

The standing committee will hold another meeting to discuss whether the related legislation and parole release system have to be revised. After that the committee will compile a report to the legislature’s president as soon as possible.

Cheang Chi Keong stressed that parole is not an automatic arrangement but is being carried out selectively and comes with conditions.

“Parole won’t happen automatically and has to be judged by the court under certain conditions based on facts and what crime the inmate has committed,” he added.

The legislature’s legal advisors also said that the early release mechanism differs from “forgiveness or amnesty. It’s a kind of criminal policy that gives inmates a transitional period”.

Therefore, Cheang said turning down a parole application is “completely within existing laws”, adding the judge has the final say in choosing whether or not to hand down a judgement in favour of the applicant.

To amend the Penal Code and the Code of Criminal Procedure, Cheang said, is a “serious matter and thus has to be handled prudently”.

The standing committee will ask the court to provide the number of parole applications it has received since the establishment of the SAR and how many of them were given the green light.

Cheang said the committee won’t be looking specifically into the case and why the inmate’s application got rejected. “We won’t interfere with the judicial decisions and we’re only going to discuss whether or not it’s necessary to amend the legislation and the system”.

In many other different countries, parole applications also have to go through the court and the prisoners will not be able to be released earlier if the judge finally says no, Cheang said.

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