Parole system not exercised ‘at will’

Wednesday, December 29, 2010
Issue 1197, Page 3
Word count: 393
Published in: Macau Daily Times

By Poyi (Natalie) Leung

The existing parole system for prisoners is not being loosely exercised or approved solely based on judges’ own decisions, president of the Third Standing Committee of the Legislative Assembly Cheang Chi Keong assured yesterday.

A “handful of people” signed a petition and submitted it to the legislature in June urging for a review of the parole mechanism, which they believe is without standards and gives judges excessive discretion to decide whether or not an inmate can be released on parole.

Cheang pointed out that the standing committee is only responsible for “handling” the petition, meaning to clarify questions raised by the petitioners and compile an opinion report which will be released to the media when completed.

The identity or background of the petitioners was not made public due to privacy concerns, Cheang said.

With regard to whether the system needs to be revised, the committee president said it is another matter that will require the Legislative Assembly to carry out analysis and compare Macau’s system with that of other countries at a later time.

He added that at the moment it is too soon to determine whether such revision is necessary.

According to Cheang, there is “clearly a misunderstanding” regarding how the petitioners define discretion.

He told reporters after a meeting that there are other requirements inmates need to fulfill before they can be considered for parole.

For example, they must have already served at least two thirds of their original sentences and six months in jail, a report from a parole officer is essential and the judge will also consider whether the prisoner will present a risk to society if released.

“There are many factors for the court to determine [if parole release can be granted]. It’s not only based on judges’ own will,” Cheang said.

Statistics provided by the Macau Prison to the standing committee show that between 2000 and May 2010, the highest approval rate of parole applications was recorded at 51.3 percent in 2007, representing 197 out of 384 applications.

The proportion then ranged from 50.41 percent (in 2006) to the lowest of 36.89 percent (in 2002).

Between January and May 2010, 150 parole applications have been handed in to the court and 60 of them were already approved, 66 were injected and 24 are pending decision.

Cheang said the standing committee deemed that the approval rate was “acceptable”.

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