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Serving time from home
( 2003-08-01 11:47) (Agencies)

Xiao Liu, a 21-year-old man sentenced to seven years in prison for auto theft, was allowed to serve the rest of his sentence in the community where he lives.

Xiao Liu is one of the first group of offenders benefiting from judicial reform in Beijing.

China's judicial departments are experimenting with community service in Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin, and east China's Jiangsu and Zhejiang provinces. Some offenders who show good behavior in prison, or who have received light sentences, can serve the remainder of their sentence at home after a period of imprisonment.

At present, only five cases are eligible for community service including surveillance, probation, release on parole, temporary service out of prison and deprivation of political rights upon release.

Community service, widely adopted in many countries, had been overlooked in China as the country exerted emphasis on imprisonment.

"Community service creates an open environment for offenders and helps motivate them to choose the right track," said Wu Yuhua, director of the Beijing Judicial Bureau. The adoption of community service also indicates China's judiciary is in line with international practices.

Living in a more relaxed environment at home, Xiao Liu is more confident about his future.

"I am still serving my sentence though living at home," he said, after serving four of his seven years' in prison. Under the program, he has to work at least ten hours each month.

Xiao Liu has been assigned farm work and cleaning work in a nursing home.

Offenders shifted into community service are allowed to contact people in the community, but can only live at home. They cannot leave the community without advance notice. Weekly reports of their life and monthly talks with judicial workers are required.

Professional judicial workers have been sent to trial districts, ensuring smooth implementation of community service. They are also expected to help the police deal with escapes or repeat offenders.

The new judicial practice does not please everyone. Some people question why offenders are sent back home instead of being confined in prison.

Since the trial program started in Shanghai one year ago, more than 100 offenders completed community service with no repeat offenders.

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