Prisons Projectensuring the rights of an often forgotten population
Cambodian prisons are typically overcrowded
Prisoners in Cambodia live in appalling conditions. The government allots only 2,800 riel (about $0.70 USD) to each prisoner for food. Water is often unsafe to drink and scarce; some prisoners receive as little as five liters per day for washing and drinking. Prisons are also overcrowded, with as little as 0.7 square meters of space per prisoner. Those who break prison rules can be shackled, beaten or kept in their cells for weeks on end. New prisoners are often subject to initiation beatings, which are carried out by groups of inmates designated and directed by guards - so-called "prisoner self-management committees."
Inside prison walls, life is dominated by corruption. There is a price tag attached to every amenity imaginable, from sleeping space to recreation time. Those who can't afford to pay are forced to endure the most squalid conditions.
Cambodia's overburdened court system means that pretrial detainees are frequently held beyond the legal time limits prescribed by law. This problem is compounded by the fact that Cambodia has few legal aid lawyers, and as a result, some detainees do not have legal representation. Those who do secure representation find that their lawyers simply have no time to meet with them before trial - they have too many clients. Other detainees may be tried in absentia if they do not have the means to pay for transport to their trial or appeal.
Some detainees suffer other rights abuses prior to imprisonment, including arrest without a warrant and torture by the police. In 2010, nearly one out of every 12 pretrial detainees interviewed by LICADHO reported being tortured in police custody.
And the abuses do not stop at the prison gates, or at the end of a prisoner's sentence. Each year, scores of prisoners are kept in prison after the expiration of their sentences, usually due to corruption demands. Meanwhile, family members are also confronted by corruption when they try to visit loved ones: the bribery costs associated with a prison visit can easily run to half of the average Cambodian's monthly wage.
What we do
This project is supported by the European Union
LICADHO believes that regular visits by prison researchers deter abuses in prison and make it easier for LICADHO to intervene when they do occur. LICADHO's prison activities include:
- Interviewing incoming pretrial detainees to ensure that they have legal representation and can communicate with their families
- Checking for violations of pretrial detainees' rights, such as illegal arrests and excessive pretrial detention
- Monitoring the actions of court and prison officials to ensure that the legal process is conducted properly
- Assisting families in visiting their relatives in prison, including assistance in avoiding corruption
- Providing legal assistance, advice and support to prisoners who have suffered human rights abuses in prison or in police custody
- Working with prison and court authorities to ensure the timely release of convicted prisoners who complete their sentences
- Distributing food and materials to prisoners
- Providing medical treatment for prisoners and prison staff (provided by LICADHO's Medical Office)
LICADHO's prison researchers also monitor living conditions in the prisons, looking at issues such as the quality of food, water, sanitation, the size and cleanliness of living areas, and exercise for prisoners outside of their cells. Information about prison conditions and any violations of prisoners' rights are compiled for LICADHO reports and used for other advocacy purposes.
LICADHO is currently the only NGO in Cambodia with access to prisons that regularly shares its findings with the public.
- Comments and Legislative Recommendations on the Draft Law on Prisons
- Beyond Capacity 2011: A Progress Report on Cambodia's Exploding Prison Population
- Beyond Capacity: Cambodia's Exploding Prison Population & Correctional Center 4
- A review of the conditions of mothers, pregnant women and young children living in ten Cambodian prisons
- In Absentia 2010: The Right of Appeal & Cambodia's Inmate Transportation Crisis
- Prison Conditions In Cambodia 2008: Women In Prison
- Innocent Prisoners: a LICADHO Report on the Rights of Children Growing up in Prisons
Adopt a Prison Project
Child of a prisoner
Children (who can stay with their parents in prison until the age of 6), their mothers and pregnant women living in prisons are routinely denied critical access to basic health care, adequate nutrition and education. Mothers with children in prison are only given an additional 1400 riel ($0.35) per child for food and other basic needs. Only one prison out of 25 provides children with educational opportunities. Children, isolated from the rest of the world and badly nourished, acquire severe developmental problems and have a difficult time adjusting to society once they leave prison.Women giving birth are denied access to midwives or medical care.
What we do
In response to these issues, LICADHO started the Adopt-A-Prison Project in 2003.The project's activities include:
- Mobilizing and facilitating individuals and organizations in providing assistance (food, water and other basic amenities) to babies, children, and pregnant women
- Assisting in the implementation of educational programs for children living in prison
- Providing support to mothers and children who have left the prison
- Compiling reports on the living conditions of women and children in prisons to be used in advocacy efforts
- Organizing activities and food distribution for children, juveniles and women during holidays like International Women's Day and International Children's Day