Opinion: Outbreak in the prisons gives us opportunity to ask serious question of criminal justice system

Thailand’s coronavirus pandemic has now spread to the prison system with thousands of inmates testing positive for the virus.

High profile activists have been struck ill with the disease including “Rung” and “Mike.”

But as officials struggle to contain the spread of the virus both inside and outside of prisons, perhaps now is the right time to discuss Thailand’s criminal justice system.

Thailand currently has the world’s sixth largest prison population. But per capita, our ranking is actually higher as only countries with much larger populations than us, the US, China, Brazil, India and Russia, have more people in jail.

Our prison systems, by their own admission, are overcrowded and cramped. Those repaying their debt to society rarely have the support or the funding necessary to learn new skills or vocations for them to rely on when they return to society.

Criminal justice reform is also necessary given statistics released by the Ministry of Justice which shows that many Thais who go through the prison systems have a high probability of committing more crimes.

Serious questions must be asked also of justice system which sees it fit to incarcerate young men and women for a variety of petty crimes.

Even outside of political crimes, which have been criticized plenty on these editorial pages, there is a plethora of work to do in reforming the justice system.

There is a dual track justice system in this country where the poorest and the least privileged among us are the ones most at risk of incarceration.

So as Covid numbers start to come under control again in our country’s prisons, the spotlight must not shift and questions must continued to be asked of both the criminal justice system and the judiciary.

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