Draft law targets repeat offenders
Bill will allow surveillance of those with a history of violence
Kanyarat, a 50-year-old woman in Buri Ram, asked the Pavena Hongsakul Foundation for Children and Women early this month to help her parents and their three-year-old grandchild stay safe from her own brother, who has a history of violence.
Preecha, a 43-year-old addicted to inhalants, was released from prison in May last year after serving eight years for the brutal murder of his nine-year-old nephew. That incident took place three years after he was released from jail for killing his brother-in-law.
According to Kanyarat, her parents were living in fear after he returned home.
He went back to substance abuse and forced his parents to flee and hide when he started showing erratic behaviour -- her brother liked to sharpen a knife when he was high.
When Preecha was arrested on Jan 9 on a minor charge, Kanyarat decided to seek help from the Pavena foundation before his return. People in the community had also felt uneasy after he had returned.
Preecha's case highlights the challenge of curbing violence by repeat offenders, whose numbers continue to rise. Based on the Department of Corrections' 2018-2021 figures, 34.6% of ex-convicts repeat their offences.
To tackle this problem, the Justice Ministry has proposed a draft law aimed at reducing the number of repeat offenders by focussing on those involved in violent crimes.
The bill, already endorsed by the cabinet, is being vetted by the Council of State, the government's legal adviser. It is expected to be passed into law and enforced within this year.
The bill defines violent crimes which cover several offences under the Criminal Code including Sections 224, 276, 277, 278 [against people under 18], 284, 288 and other offences stipulated in the ministerial regulations.
Under the bill, repeat offenders in violent crime will be subject to surveillance after being released from prison for the sake of public safety and as part of the former inmates' rehabilitation.
While the draft law is pending further scrutiny, the ministry has set up the Justice Safety Observation Ad hoc Center (JSOC) to monitor two groups of former inmates following their release.
Those convicted of seven types of violent and otherwise serious crimes are placed on Watch List 1. The offences include rape, murder, armed robbery and major drug trafficking.
Those on Watch List 2 are inmates granted an early release but who may still pose a threat to society.
Witthawal: Jailed murderer 'normal'
Witthawal Sunthornkachit, director-general of the Probation Department, said Preecha did not have a history of mental health and appeared "normal" while locked up.
He said Preecha's violence was triggered by substance abuse and living conditions. While admitting that Preecha was dangerous to those around him, there was not much the department could do.
"What we can do is put him on a list. We can't make him wear a tracking device. So the police and the community will have to keep an eye on him," he said.
Tawatchai: Inmates tend to behave
Tawatchai Chaiwat, deputy director-general of the Corrections Department, said the department has singled out 113 people for the JSOC programme, some of whom are still serving jail terms.
Mr Tawatchai also said that inmates tend to behave when they are serving their sentences in order to qualify for sentence reduction, while inmates with mental health problems are provided treatment.
"In Preecha's case, he didn't show any signs [of mental health problems]," he said.
Kritsanapong: Law is for public safety
Assoc Prof Pol Lt Col Kritsanapong Phutrakul, who chairs the Faculty of Criminology and Justice Administration at Rangsit University, welcomed the draft law to help keep repeat offenders in check.
Pol Lt Col Kritsanapong said several countries have adopted such measures to help keep the public safe, noting that sex offenders and habitual offenders do not get sentence reductions.
However, he said legal mechanisms may still be inadequate due to limited resources availabe, so the Department of Probation, local administrative bodies and communities will have to engage.
"Those who are required to wear electronic monitoring tags may not cause problems when returning to society. But they can face social stigma and find it hard to get a job. This is a problem," he said.
"If authorities set up a database and share it with concerned parties while relocating these individuals and putting them under surveillance, it should also help," Pol Lt Col Kritsanapong added.