SEOUL, Aug. 18 (Korea Bizwire) – Shocking findings from an OECD report show that South Korea had nearly 2,000 inmates per prison as of the end of June, giving it the dubious distinction of being the country with the most overcrowded prisons among OECD member nations.
The worrying numbers come after Yoon Sang-jik, a lawmaker from the Liberty Korea Party and member of the legislation and judiciary committee, received data based on OECD prison population statistics from the Korea Correctional Service on Thursday showing that South Korean prisons on average accommodate 1,099 prisoners, far ahead of Spain, which ranked second on the list with an average of 734.9.
Despite the similarly high population density, prisons in Japan were found to accommodate around 302 inmates on average, a figure far below that of South Korea.
According to the prison capacity index, conditions for South Korean prisons were found to be among the worst, with 21.8 percent more prisoners incarcerated than the recommended standard, only trailing Hungary, where nearly 20 more people for every 100 are housed in each prison.
The overcrowding at prisons in the U.S. was only 3.9 percent above recommended levels despite the world’s highest incarceration rate, while Japanese prisons on average operated at less than 67 percent of their full capacity.
The issue of prison overcrowding has worsened since 2012, when the nation’s average inmate population level per prison surpassed 100 percent, which many experts link to the lack of funding for correctional institutions.
According to last year’s state business records, the Ministry of Justice spent nearly 193 billion won for the management of correctional institution and public utility charges, surpassing the originally designated budget of 169.2 billion won by 24 billion won.
“As the Constitutional Court of Korea has ruled overcrowding at correctional institutions is in breach of the value and dignity of human life and considering the rise in inmate numbers, it’s pressing that we increase funding to expand correctional institutions,” Yoon emphasized.
Others call on law enforcement authorities to increase investigations without detaining suspects, and lower sentences for poverty-driven crimes as a way of solving the issue of prison overcrowding.
“Prison overcrowding has intensified in recent years due to the growing number of poverty-driven crimes. When prison capacity is exceeded, law enforcement, police and the courts must all play an active role to reduce the number of individuals detained by releasing them on parole, for instance,” said Oh Chang-ik, a human rights group official.
Hyunsu Yim (email@example.com)