Beijing opens first counseling clinic for prisoners

By Du Wenjuan (
Updated: 2007-07-09 09:42

A special assistance center was set up in Beijing Prison recently where policewomen, who are also qualified counselors, provide help for special "clients", male prisoners who are serving long sentences, Beijing Youth News reported on July 5.

A policewoman counselor chats online with an inmate at a counseling and education center in Beijing Prison. []

The police use computers with Internet access and chat through web cameras with lifers to help ease their psychological problems especially with those who have difficulty communicating. A short message service is also available for them to contact their families.

The newly-established center is composed of policewomen. Due to regulations in prisons, the policewomen are not allowed to communicate with prisoners face-to-face, according to Lu Yanyan, the director of the center for counseling and correctional education in the Beijing Bureau of Prison Administration.

"The work of counseling used to be the responsibility of policemen," explains Lu. "But because they are also officials who enforce correctional education on the prisoners, those who have psychological problems are reluctant to open their hearts to share their troubles. That's why policewomen fill this need."

Wearing civilian clothes, not uniforms, the five policewomen appear much closer to the people they counsel. Though not face-to-face, the prisoners encounter a friendly and kind smile and feel more relaxed to talk openly about their feelings and emotions.

A prisoner who was sentenced to life imprisonment seldom talked as he was abandoned by his family. But when a counselor surnamed Ren started to make appointments with him, he "became happier than before," as Ren put it.

The special short message service is free for lifers. They can send as many messages as they want, but every message is checked by the officers. The quantity of messages sent and received currently is about 1,500 a day.

Another prisoner told the reporter, even though he was concerned about his child's education and could not solve the problem himself, he felt more comfortable after he poured out his troubles to the counselor.

As the counseling and correctional education director explains, it is important to provide counseling for those with long sentences, Lu says crimes are always the result of psychological problems and the prisoners are also disturbed by depression and anxiety in confinement.

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