MOJ urged to commute more prison sentences
By Lauly Li, The China Post
December 10, 2013, 12:25 am TWN
TAIPEI, Taiwan --Kuomintang (KMT) Legislator Liao Cheng-ching (廖正井) yesterday urged the Ministry of Justice (MOJ) to support his proposal to reduce overcrowding in Taiwan's prisons by commuting more sentences.
Liao last Friday submitted his proposal to the Legislative Yuan's Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee for review. Liao said he hopes the bill will be processed and passed within the current legislative session, perhaps by May 20, 2014.
In Liao's proposed bill, death sentences would be commuted to life imprisonment, life imprisonment would be commuted to 20 years, and other prison terms would be automatically cut in half.
The bill, however, would not apply to convictions for corruption, manslaughter, or sexual offenses punished with a death sentence, life imprisonment, or prison terms of more than 18 months.
During interpellation at the Legislative Yuan, Liao urged the MOJ to face the issue of prison overcrowding and to hold public hearings over the matter.
In response, Vice Minister of Justice Wu Chen-huan (吳陳鐶), who attended the meeting of the Judiciary and Organic Laws and Statutes Committee yesterday, said that according to the Constitution, only the president of Republic of China is entitled to grant amnesty.
Wu noted that extension of amnesty requires full consideration of all possible circumstances, and though the MOJ can offer professional opinions, it is not any government departments' position to comment on the possibility of amnesty.
Wu further noted that as to the issue of the island's overcrowded prisons, the MOJ has come up with several proposals to handle the matter.
Wu went on to explain that the MOJ is planning to expand the construction of prisons and rebuild several detention centers, and noted that the MOJ is also seeking the Legislative Yuan's support.
Wu also said he thinks it is better for the committee to hold public hearings in the matter at hand.
Liao said that the issue of prison overcrowding is more serious than people might think, noting that he had personally visited several prisons and discovered that prison cells designed for inhabitation by eight people were often crowded with 15 prisoners. “If they get up in the middle of the night to go to the toilet, they are not be able to find a space to sleep after coming back,” Liao said.
The legislator went on to say that the MOJ, which is in charge of Taiwan's prisons, should show its empathy toward these prisoners by solving the issue. Liao added that his proposed bill to commute prison sentences is worth considering.