Prepare prisoners for life after release

By Cao Yin in Beijing and Luo Wangshu in Chongqing ( China Daily ) Updated: 2013-12-12 09:43:01

Unemployment and rejection by family hamper their return into society, report Cao Yin in Beijing and Luo Wangshu in Chongqing.

A year after he was released from prison, Zhou Liguo was at his lowest ebb. "Things were too bitter to bear. I had no family support, and no one wanted to help me," said the 42-year-old, who was released in 2009 after serving five years for causing intentional bodily harm.

Zhou was desperate. Abandoned by society and his family, the businessman from the northeastern province of Liaoning said he felt as though he had nothing to look forward to, but he refused to give up hope. With the help of an old friend, he secured work in a factory and quietly began setting up a business in stone goods, the sector he had worked in before his incarceration. Three years later, he owns his own business, and although he isn't rich, he is happy.

However, not all ex-inmates are as fortunate or driven as Zhou. The problems associated with leaving prison, especially after serving a long sentence, can prove insurmountable for many ex-inmates. For some, a failure to find work and rejection by their families are compounded by the stigma attached to their status as ex-cons.

For others, age and ill health may also prove stumbling blocks. Peng Lin (not his real name) who served time for rape, was scheduled to be sent to a care home for seniors upon release from Yongchuan Prison in Chongqing in 2011. However, the care home was unwilling to accept the 79-year-old, who has heart disease. With no family to provide help, the center would have to foot the bill for his treatment, which it was reluctant to do.

Dislocation from mainstream society may lead ex-inmates to re-offend and wind up back in jail, according to experts.

The recent case of Hong Shui (not his real name) has reignited the debate about recidivism in China. In 2011, Hong was sentenced to 12 months in prison with probation of one year after attacking two people after a drinking binge. However, after his release, Hong re-offended by allowing his home to be used as a center for people taking illegal drugs.

Chinese Criminal Law, which came into force in 2011, has clear rules about repeat offenders, or recidivists. Briefly, Article 65 says that if a person commits a crime within five years of serving a jail term, they will face a heavier sentence.

As a repeat offender, Hong was given a heavier punishment than usual on Tuesday, when he was sentenced to 18 months in prison.

 Prepare prisoners for life after release

Prison officer Yang Jie during a psychological counseling session with an inmate at Yongchuan Prison in Chongqing. LU YANG / FOR CHINA DAILY 

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