Our prison system archaic, says Paulsen

eric-paulsen-nur-jazlan-anwar-1PETALING JAYA: The Home Ministry’s censure of opposition leader Anwar Ibrahim for issuing statements from jail has prompted a human rights lawyer to denounce the Malaysian prison system as archaic.

Speaking to FMT, Lawyers for Liberty director Eric Paulsen complained that the Malaysian system was, unlike progressive systems around the world, still based on the principle of punishment rather than rehabilitation.

“If we look at more progressive prison systems such as those in the Nordic states, we see that the prisons are aimed at rehabilitation rather than punishment and this means that prisoners retain many of their rights. including free speech, internet access and even the right to vote,” he said.

Deputy Home Minister Nur Jazlan Mohamed recently warned Anwar against issuing statements without approval from prison authorities, saying it could affect his jail term.

“Lately, several statements have been issued by Anwar and I wonder whether he really made the statements,” Bernama quoted him as saying.

“If the statements were relayed through third parties and were not approved by the Prisons Department, then it is an offence that can affect the jail period.”

According to the Prison Act of 1995, any prisoner may be allowed the use of books and writing materials received or secured through a prison officer with the permission and approval of the officer-in-charge as long as it is consistent with the proper discipline of the prison.

Paulsen said it was a shame that Malaysian prisons would vet what prisoners wrote or said.

“Sometimes, writings can be confiscated when it is none of the authorities’ business, and this is inconsistent with human rights,” he said. “These rules need to change.”

Stop talking from behind bars, Nur Jazlan warns Anwar