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China Vows to Finance Incarceration with Public Funds, Not Prison Profits

Despite its atrocious human rights record, China says it is taking steps to ensure that its prison system is publicly financed and that prisoners receive rehabilitative opportunities.

Wu Aiying, China’s Minister of Justice, announced last year that profits from prison-run enterprises will now primarily fund rehabilitative programs rather than the intrinsic costs of paying for China’s nearly 700 prisons nationwide and salaries for some 300,000 guards.

Those expenses, Wu told a session of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, will now be financed mostly by central and provincial government spending.

Public funding of China’s prison system – which incarcerates an estimated 1.64 million prisoners – paid for almost 88% of the total costs in 2011, Wu stated. She also said safety conditions have improved now that prisoners are prohibited from working with explosive, flammable, poisonous or environmentally hazardous materials.

Wu further indicated that China’s prisons, under the direction of the Ministry of Justice, are strengthening rehabilitative and educational opportunities for prisoners. A new correctional program implemented nationwide mandates that prisoners have five days of work “experience” each week, one day of in-class study and one day off.

Since 2008, according to Ministry of Justice figures, 1.25 million Chinese prisoners have completed compulsory literacy and educational programs; they can also receive vocational training and certification. Wu noted that counseling and psychological treatment have also been made available in China’s prison system.


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