Home detention: A solution for overcrowded prisons or public safety risk?

Debate heats up on home detention in Malaysia

Siti Noor Faezah Muda
Siti Noor Faezah Muda
25 Apr 2024 03:14pm
Photo for illustration purpose only. - File photo by Bernama
Photo for illustration purpose only. - File photo by Bernama

SHAH ALAM - Home detention, an alternative to imprisonment, is currently unavailable for application due to the absence of provisions in the country's legal system.

Nonetheless, the government is considering the implementation of the Licenced Prisoner Release Programme (PBSL) as a measure to alleviate prison overcrowding.

PBSL offers eligible prisoners privileges such as strengthening family bonds, seeking employment opportunities, and planning for life after release.

To qualify, prisoners must meet requirements outlined in Section 43 of the Prison Act 1995 (Act 537) and Regulation 111 of the Prison Regulations 2000.

With approximately 80,000 prisoners housed across 43 prisons nationwide, discussions on the suitability of home detention scintillated varied opinions.

Khairul Akmal Barkawi, a coordinator, advocated for home detention, particularly for pregnant women and the elderly.

He stressed the challenges faced by pregnant women in receiving necessary medical care while incarcerated and suggested that frail elderly individuals would benefit from home confinement due to health concerns.

"Upon completion of childbirth-related matters, these women may need to return to prison for the remainder of their sentences after a certain period.

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"Similarly, elderly individuals who are frail or suffer from various chronic illnesses would benefit from home detention.

"For instance, consider someone who has been convicted by the court and sentenced, but at the age of 81, their physical condition is too fragile to withstand the rigours of imprisonment," he said.

Support for home detention extended to Zarif Zulkafli, a Body Language Coach, who sees it as a viable solution to ease prison congestion. However, he acknowledged public concerns regarding safety and emphasised the need for robust enforcement protocols.

"This includes issues related to overcrowding, expenditure, and matters concerning prisoner rehabilitation and health within correctional facilities," he said.

He further stressed that, in that context, the concept of home detention for certain categories of prisoners is deemed reasonable.

"It serves as a means to alleviate pressure and reduce expenses associated with prisoners, besides being a more humane approach, contingent upon the offences committed by individual prisoners.

"However, it must be acknowledged that the implementation of home detention may raise concerns about public safety," he said.

He was then asked if the government, through its authorities, is truly prepared to ensure that individuals placed under home detention do not pose a threat to society.

"If this question were directed at me, I would confidently state that enforcement protocols in Malaysia are currently at an excellent level.

"At the same time, there are certain gaps that need to be addressed with some improvements because perfection does not exist in this world," he said.

Finally, he ensured that the authorities' current preparedness is seen to be highly efficient, so the public need not worry.

Meanwhile, Siti Fatimah Rosmi opposed home detention, arguing that serving sentences behind bars fosters accountability among offenders.

She expressed concerns about potential risks associated with electronic monitoring devices and fears malfunctioning could lead to unrestricted movement of detainees.

"Prison bars bring realisation to wrongdoers," declared Siti Fatimah.

Expressing strong opposition, Siti Fatimah highlighted her concern about the potential negative impact of prisoners in home detention on those around them.

She argued that life behind bars serves as a deterrent for the inmates.

Siti Fatimah vehemently opposed the idea of home detention, fearing that if prisoners are required to wear electronic monitoring devices, it may not be very effective and could raise various issues.

She expressed concern that if these devices malfunction, prisoners under home detention might roam freely as they please.

Engineer Mohd Hazizi Jemiran shared Siti Fatimah's apprehension, highlighting societal stigma and family burdens associated with home detention.

He advocated for offenders to serve their full sentences in prison, emphasising the importance of rehabilitation and preventing recidivism.

Expressing his stance, Hazizi argued that it would be better for offenders to remain in prison and return to their families' care after serving their sentences to start afresh.

He also opposed the notion of convicts feeling comfortable while under home detention and potentially repeating the same mistakes in the future.

Hazizi urged against the government's inclination to resolve prison overcrowding issues, as it may lead to various problems for the citizens later on.