Nathee Chitsawang, Ph.D.
1. The number of prison population tends to decline due to the non custodial measures increasingly introduced to offenders both before and after prison sentence. Thus, the total number of prisoners on 1st October 2020 shall reduce from its previous figures in 2019.
2. Although the overall prison population might decrease, it is expected to recognize the increase in specific three groups of prisoners. First, the penal policy imposing actual longer prison sentence on offenders shall have impact on larger group of elderly prisoners growing old behind bars. Secondly, the transgender prisoners or LGBT persons in custody shall be rising as they are more widely accepted in society by demonstrating greater openness in their gender identity. Because of this, there could be more discussion on custodial measures in particular whether they should be detained separately from other prisoners or not. Finally, the number of foreign prisoners might expand because of two key factors: an increase in transnational crimes; and bigger movement of foreign workers across the borders.
3. As for the number of female prisoners which has escalated for many years in Thai prisons, it shall diminish in 2020 since there will be more implementation of non-custodial measures in accordance with the Bangkok Rules.
4. Despite the lower statistics of prison population expected to happen in 2020, the situation on prison overcrowding crisis shall remain. The crucial reason is that 360,000 prisoners still more than 100% exceed the total prison capacity. Even in 2020 Department of Corrections will open and operate two more prisons (Petchaburi Central Prison and Narathiwat Provincial Prison), they do not contribute to the larger amount of prison capacity because they are new correctional facilities which were constructed to replace the old ones.
5. The above-mentioned overcrowding crisis creates profound impact on the well-being, health and medical care of prisoners due to the severe congestion behind bars. Combining this fact with the trend in No. 2, those three prisoner groups tend to have their own illnesses, such as dementia and senility in aging prisoners, or endemic diseases regularly found among a particular group of foreign prisoners. However, as 2020 is the first year of the implementation of the Royal Initiative, called ‘Good Health Good Heart Project’, therefore it will bring substantial benefits to health and medical care of prisoners. To put it simply, the medical service system for prisoners in Thailand will be undoubtedly enhanced to achieve the international standard level.
6. Apart from the better medical care for prisoners, another trend in 2020 is the broader participation by public and private sectors, as well as society at large in the social reintegration of released prisoners. It is worth noting that this trend shall further develop all concrete activities and campaigns launched in 2019 to support the reintegration of prisoners into society, especially bridging gap between the prison walls and the private enterprises in outside world.
7. In spite of the fact that there are enormous efforts to provide prisoners with rehabilitation and reintegration programs, it is believed that the recidivism rates of all follow-up periods (1 year, 2 years, and 3 years) shall not show any significant changes as the measures on classifying recidivists and repeat offenders for receiving special treatment have not been clearly carried out yet.