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Reforms to unlock prison information

Updated: 2013-11-30 00:49
By An Baijie ( China Daily)

Justice authorities, attorneys to also be subject to higher levels of scrutiny

Prison authorities will improve management by boosting transparency and standardizing internal law enforcement practices, a senior justice official said on Friday.

Prison management information will be disclosed not only to prisoners and their relatives but to the whole of society, said Zhao Dacheng, vice-minister of justice.

Such information should include an outline of a prisoner's rights and obligations, performance evaluation rules and bail regulations, Zhao said.

Authorities should also disclose information about daily life and work inside prisons, as well as explain prisoner-education programs, he added.

Zhao made the remarks during a news conference at the State Council Information Office on Friday.

He vowed to boost transparency, using modern computer technology, to meet the public's demands.

Authorities will continue to maintain a level of strict but civilized law enforcement, he said.

Zhao announced that justice authorities have "almost" achieved their goal of separating prison management from prison enterprises, or businesses. The purpose of prison enterprises is to "serve the transformation of criminals", Zhao said.

Hou Xiaofeng, an anti-graft researcher with the Liaoning Provincial Academy of Social Sciences, said that public disclosure of prison information is important because it's difficult for the public to evaluate prison management without it.

Prison officials should be subject to public scrutiny to help prevent improper dealings, such as accepting a bribe to reduce a prisoner's term, Hou said.

In December 2011, Liu Wanqing, former head of the Hunan Provincial Prison Management Bureau, was sentenced to life in prison for accepting 17 million yuan ($2.8 million) in bribes, Xinhua News Agency reported.

Apart from prison management, the ministry also pledged to improve the system of lawyers, in line with decisions made at the Third Plenary Session of the 18th Communist Party of China Central Committee on Nov 12.

Lawyers play an important role in protecting the rights and interests of people and corporations, according to the document adopted by the plenum. Their right to practice will be protected, but they should still be punished for malpractice under improved systems.

There were about 235,000 lawyers in China at the end of 2012, and the number is expected to reach 240,000 this year, said Zhao, the vice-minister.

Justice authorities will improve the mechanism to protect lawyers' legal rights, he said.

Standards of professional ethics for lawyers will receive close attention, he added, since integrity is at the core of their work.

On Nov 20, the All China Lawyers Association established a committee to supervise lawyers' conduct and vowed to punish those who break laws and regulations.

The committee aims to improve lawyers' work styles and encourage them to uphold integrity and abide by the law, Xinhua reported.

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