KOTA KINABALU – The Kota Kinabalu Central Prison is home to the longest serving prisoner in the history of Malaysia.
Sabahâ€™s Board of Visiting Justices secretary Datuk Katherine M O Lee said, the foreign prisoner, who was given a sentence of â€˜natural lifeâ€™ around the 1980s, is currently in his 70s and had been in prison for 36 years.
â€œI think that under Natural Justice it is a bit too long to be detained. So we come in, help to recommend them with the cooperation of the prison department for submission to the Pardons Board for early release,â€ Lee said.
However, the release of a prisoner requires stringent filtering and careful consideration of good prison records and the outside conditions that affect the wellbeing of the prisoner.
â€œAccording to the prison record, he is on good behaviour and is actually holding quite a high position in the prison and is looking after the other prisoners,â€ said Lee.
â€œSo he is okay, he is docile and harmless, so I think very saleable person to be recommended for early release. Papers are already with the state AG (attorney-general),â€ she added.
Lee explained that the Board of Visiting Justices were appointed by the Home Minister to look into the wellbeing of prison inmates and the juveniles to see that they are properly taken care of according to the rules provided in the Prisons Act, regulations and rules.
This includes keeping an eye on prisonerâ€™s living conditions and treatment as well as looking into their rights on the legal side.
â€œThey may have cases pending for appeal and they may not be aware that they can proceed for appeal and with the help of the offices in the prison, they will also assist them with how to go about getting their appeal done and things like that,â€ said Lee.
She said the board was also involved in the overstaying of the prisoners.
â€œSometimes they stay so long. Based on good behaviour and the reports from the prison or disciplinary officers, if they are eligible, they are worthy to be recommended. We will interview them as Board of Visiting Justices and see whether they are worthy of recommendation for early release by TYT (Head of State),â€ said Lee.
â€œWe are not only looking into their good behaviour while they are serving their sentences here, but also whether they have a future outside.
â€œWe are very concerned, if they got no good homes to go out after their release, then there are tendencies to go back into crimes. So we make sure they have a family to go home to and maybe a decent job and if they are still under age, to continue studies,â€ she explained.
Lee said the Board was annually empowered under Section 97 (4) of the Child Act to recommend an inmateâ€™s early release or further detention.
With the cooperation of the Prison Department and the Council of Restorative Justice Sabah, eight prisoners, had been released through the Boardâ€™s recommendation last year, said Lee.
The release of seven foreign males and one female on February 16, 2016 marked the most number of prisoners released in the history of Sabah.
According to Lee, the prisoners committed crimes that renders the capital punishment. However, they were â€˜detained at the pleasure of the TYT or protected from the death sentence because they were under the age of 21 when committing the crime.
â€œThey all had been released and gone back to their country. They were released after serving between 19 and 25 years. So it is actually quite long,â€ said Lee.
â€œOne of the concerns of the government is that before they were released, they must make sure their country will take them back.
â€œWe have to make sure that their country of origin will accept them back into their country. If they agree to take them back, then the recommendation for their release is stronger,â€ she explained this at the â€˜Jalinan Kasihâ€™ Chinese New Year celebrations at the Kota Kinabalu Women Prison here. – BorneoPost