Sunday, July 22, 2007

President Chen's Wish-washy Amnesty

Do good intentions die hard? Well the recipients of some good intentions have.

A total of 9,597 inmates were released on Monday as part of a commutation granted to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the end of martial law and the 60th anniversary of the "228 Incident."

Among those benefitting from the statute were prisoners convicted on charges of minor crimes such as illegal drug possession, burglary, theft and fraud.

Chen urges tolerance for inmates released in amnesty

Ok. Very noble. Very symbolic. However, was this the right choice of crimes to pardon? Weren't there other options?

Citing statistics from the Ministry of Justice, Chen said that 16 percent to 19 percent of the inmates released from jail in selective commutation would likely commit a crime again, whereas 40 percent of those released on parole or after serving full sentences would commit a crime.

Great! Better yet:

While saying government agencies have mapped out supplementary plans to reduce the negative impact of the amnesty, Chen admitted that more needs to be done in terms of preventing drug addicts from picking up their old habits again.

Four drug offenders freed on Monday were arrested on Tuesday and six others were pronounced dead due to drug overdoses.

Is this government fishing in a catch and release program? And the drug addicts were probably better off in jail. I know these are a handful out of the nearly 10 000 that were released. But is it even worth one life?

There's a strange caption under the picture on the article page too:

Police participate yesterday in a riot drill for prison staff [...]. The drills are partly designed to show inmates that guards are still on the alert despite the recent amnesty.

On alert? Guards have to demonstrate they are on alert to the prisoners? Shouldn't that just be a given? Also, inmates would actually riot because of an amnesty? Hey, I didn't get out but my bunk mate did! Who's going to pick up my soap in the shower now? RIOT! I don't get this reporting.

I'm also wondering whether the police will register the resulting crime wave of burglaries. If my house gets robbed as a result of the amnesty, I, for one, am suing President Chen directly, once he gets out of office, of course.

One more thought, could the DPP be so desperate as to look to prisons for potential voters? What kind of message would that give? A DPP backed by criminals is no better than a KMT backed by gangsters (although I must admit that both parties have criminal and gangster backing).

There is one sensible proposal in all this muck:

DPP Legislator You Ching (尤清) said that while he supported the president's proposal, prisoners involved in corruption cases or in the production or sales of illegal drugs should not be eligible for amnesty.

Chen amnesty plan sparks controversy

I hope they make good on that. Let's hope President Chen, up on corruption charges after his term in office, doesn't get his hopes up for some kind of amnesty himself!

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