Taking aim at violent sex offenders
Special report: New law sees criminals wear tags after release
A new law set to take effect today aims to prevent people convicted of sexual and violent crimes from reoffending.
It should help reduce those crimes, as long as there are enough officials to enforce it.
The act aimed at curbing recidivism among people convicted of sexual and violent crimes intensifies surveillance measures to the degree that released offenders may be ordered to wear electronic monitoring (EM) ankle bracelets for up to 10 years after.
However, in practical terms, the Corrections Department may suffer a lack of manpower if it wishes to keep tabs on all offenders, 1,500 of whom are expected to be released this year alone.
Acting Sub Lt Thanakrit Jitareerat, secretary to the justice minister, said the the government wanted to pass the bill because of infamous serial killer Somkid Pumpuang's reoffending after he was released from jail in 2019.
Somkid, dubbed "Jack the Ripper of Thailand" by the media, was convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment in 2005 for the murders of five women, who were nightclub singers or masseuses, at hotels in Mukdahan, Lampang, Trang, Udon Thani and Buri Ram.
The Appeal Court sentenced him to life imprisonment in August 2012. He applied for parole and was granted it.
The department said he was a "model prisoner". He was released on parole in 2019 but he killed again that year. His last victim was in Khon Kaen's Kranuan district.
The incident drove Justice Minister Somsak Thepsutin to push the legislation to curb recidivism, Acting Sub Lt Thanakrit said.
Earlier, only Section 39 of the Criminal Code could provide victims protection against crimes. He said a specific law is needed to boost public safety more broadly, he said.
The bill targets three groups -- those convicted of sexual violences, violent crimes, and unlawful detention or kidnap for ransom, Acting Sub Lt Thanakrit said.
After they are discharged from jail, a ministry-appointed committee will consider if any of these ex-convicts should wear EM ankle bracelets. The law says authorities can ask them to wear the EM bracelets for up to 10 years.
Corrections officials will monitor their whereabouts and activities. If the ex-convicts repeat the same offence or break any conditions of their release, they will can be jailed again for at least three years. They can also be immediately detained for seven days, he said.
He said that aside from wearing EM bracelets, the ex-convicts will be prohibited from getting close to their victims or doing any kind of risky activities. They will not be allowed to enter particular areas or travel out of the country unless they are permitted by court.
In addition, they will be confined to living in a specific place or rehab facility, he said.
After being discharged from jail, the former convicts must present themselves to officials as scheduled and attend rehab or voluntary activities as ordered. Also, they must inform corrections officers if they change jobs.
Pol Lt Col Montree Bunyayothin, deputy director-general of the Corrections Department, said this bill will provide people protection and boost confidence in the justice system.
Referring to Somkid, he said good behaviour in jail may turn bad on the outside when a convict returns to old patterns of behaviour and is exposed to liquor, pornographic videos and criminal news stories. Therefore, wearing EM bracelets to monitor released convicts is necessary.
About 17,000 inmates who are categorised under the three groups will be subject to the law once they are released from prison. A first group of 29 inmates will be released around the end of this month with about 1,500 to be freed in total this year.
Pol Lt Col Montree conceded ''the Corrections Department has insufficient officials to monitor all of them, and the volume of released offenders is predicted to grow.''
He urges the Justice Ministry to seek more manpower in addition to officials from state agencies who already help voluntarily.
Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop Bhuridej, a commissioner of the Central Investigation Bureau (CIB), said much repeat offending occurs with many tragic incidents caused by those already convicted of the same offence.
He said people convicted of sexual crimes tend to re-offend after they are discharged due to an obsession with sex. In this case, prosecutors will be empowered by Section 22 to seek additional measures to prevent crimes.
"This bill will benefit police and justice agencies as they will be able to perform work under clear guidelines," said Pol Lt Gen Jirabhop. The law will also be a tool to help fix the behaviour of offenders and put them into rehab to curb recidivism. Many crimes including molestation can happen anywhere even in crowded public places or a safe place like home, he added.
Meanwhile, Pol Lt Col Krisanaphong Poothakool, assistant to the university president and chairman of the Faculty of Criminology and Justice Administration at Rangsit University, said the bill will boost safety.
In his capacity as a criminologist, however, he said he was concerned over the effectiveness of law enforcement, the stabilisation of EM bracelets and the workload of police. "Cooperation from locals and communities is needed to tackle the problem as well,'' he said.