Thursday, January 22, 2009

Parole, Sentence Reductions Benefit Hundreds of Prisoners in Beijing Before Spring Festival

An article published today on the front page of the Legal Daily reports on the release on parole of 144 prisoners in Beijing prisons immediately prior to the Spring Festival holiday (Chinese text below). An additional 361 prisoners received sentence reductions. A special ceremony was held at Beijing Prison, the municipality’s model prison, on January 21 at which representatives of Beijing's law enforcement community watched as officials from the Beijing Number One Intermediate People's Court announced parole decisions for 87 inmates.

According to the article, Beijing party leaders have instructed law enforcement agencies to be more lenient in assessing the eligibility for parole of older prisoners, those whose crimes were committed accidentally, female prisoners, juvenile prisoners, and those whose families are facing particular difficulties. At the same time, they have been warned to be particularly careful in issuing sentence reduction and parole to those at risk of committing further crimes, such as violent criminals, serial offenders, or repeat offenders.

The types of prisoners in Beijing who received parole and sentence reductions are similar to those paroled in Sichuan in the latter half of 2008, when the Sichuan prison system released more than 1,000 prisoners categorized as "elderly, infirm, or disabled." (See Dui Hua’s Human Rights Journal entry on the Sichuan paroles posted on January 8.)

The reports from Sichuan and Beijing may point to greater use of parole and sentence reduction for Chinese prisoners who don’t pose threats to society. They coincide with a growing debate in China about making more use of the special pardon mechanisms provided for in China’s constitution, a topic that Dui Hua explores in its current issue of Dialogue.



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