Judicial authorities will intensify the inspection of prisons, with more manpower and surprise checks, to prevent inmates from being bullied or tortured, senior prosecutors said yesterday.
"The inspection of the country's detention houses and prisons has always been one of our major tasks. But this year, we will pay special attention to it," said Procurator-General of the Supreme People's Procuratorate (SPP) Cao Jianming on the sidelines of the ongoing session of the National People's Congress (NPC).
Cao's remarks came just weeks after an inmate was beaten to death by another detainee at a detention facility in Yunnan province.
Local authorities had initially ruled out foul play, saying the inmate's death was an accident.
It was only after the SPP intervened, following an online public uproar, that the truth was uncovered.
SPP deputy procurator-general Hu Kehui said the case was still under investigation, and "if anyone, including the prosecutors stationed inside the detention facility, is found guilty of judicial corruption or dereliction of duty, he or she will be severely punished".
The Yunnan case put a huge question mark on security inside the country's prisons, so public security and prosecutorial departments are carefully chalking out efficient measures to prevent inmates from being bullied or tortured, said SPP spokesman Tong Jianming.
"The responsibility to eliminate bullying inside jails lies with the departments managing the facilities. Prosecutorial supervision is important but it should not be solely responsible for the safety of the inmates," Tong told China Daily.
Duan Zhengkun, former vice-minister of justice, said: "Detention houses should not be managed by public security departments, because they make the arrests, and sometimes torture the accused to force them to confess."
Chen Weidong, a criminal procedure law professor with Renmin University of China, proposed a nationwide "inspection patrol system" for detention facilities.
In his pilot project in Liaoyuan in Northeast China's Jilin province, a number of NPC delegates and CPPCC members were selected to work as inspectors in local detention houses, with the right to occasionally conduct surprise checks to ensure inmates are treated properly.