KUALA KLAWANG: The proposal to allow prisoners sentenced to less than six months' jail to do community work is likely to be accepted, said Minister in the Prime Ministers Department Datuk Seri Dr Rais Yatim.
Responding to a proposal by the Prisons Department, Dr Rais said he would support the move which was timely, based on the need for a social change and not so much to reduce congestion in prisons.
As far as I am concerned, this has been in the provision for some time and the Constitution allows prisoners to perform social work.
It is just a matter of departmental approach and I hope that this is done quickly because the aspect of social work for prisoners is not very widespread or popular in the country.
There is no problem with the law and the Constitution allows it. We should, therefore, popularise it to help shape society, he said yesterday.
Dr Rais said that currently, those who were convicted of a petty crime and sentenced to jail for two months, would be imprisoned.
There are an estimated 29,000 inmates in prisons throughout the country but the appropriate figure should be around 21,000, he added.
Last month, Prisons director-general Datuk Mustafa Osman said the department had submitted a proposal to the Attorney-Generals chambers for those sentenced to a prison term of less than six months to perform community service.
He had said the department was ready to implement the community service system this year as it could help overcome congestion in prisons.
Currently, a total of 2,672 inmates in the country are serving jail terms of less than six months for petty crime such as not possessing identity cards or stealing bicycles.
On the proposal to review the Road Transport Act 1987 to impose a higher penalty for those causing deaths due to reckless driving, Dr Rais said the matter had been deferred as the Transport Ministry, the police and Road Transport Department had asked for a grace period to study the effectiveness of existing laws.
The Act had just been amended two years ago, gazetted and came into effect last year.
As such, we agreed with the suggestion to study its effectiveness and get more feedback before proposing another amendment, he added.