Teams of roving prosecutors will kick off prison inspections across the country starting Monday, China's highest agency for prosecutions and investigations announced on Thursday.

The round of visits follows a yearlong exploration of how to improve prison inspection methods, the Supreme People's Procuratorate said.

The reform is an attempt to better supervise prisons by adding irregular inspection tours to those conducted by inspectors stationed in prisons on a long-term basis.

Teams of prosecutors —sometimes joined by judicial administrators, safety supervisors and auditors —are expected to look at how a number of prison issues are being supervised. These include the handling of parole and commuting of sentences, a prison's capability to implement security and what is being done in regard to rehabilitation.

In the past, prison supervision was carried out mainly by staff from a fixed inspectorate carrying out daily inspections. There was a lack of job mobility, and some of the staff were stationed in the same prison for a long time. This meant they might become too close with the prison workers to perform inspections responsibly, said Liu Fuqian, an official of the procuratorate.

To tackle the problem, the SPP Party Committee started a pilot project in May last year under which outside teams of prosecutors conducted prison inspection tours.

"The members are new, not fixed, and the tour can be more flexible,"Liu said.

As of May, prosecutors across the country have carried out 1,262 inspection visits to 452 prisons, identifying 7,238 problems and issuing 2,808 written procuratorial recommendations.

"The results are more fruitful than before, so the SPP decided to expand the work comprehensively from July 1," said Wang Shouan, another official of the procuratorate.

Wang said the reform also makes clear that inspections needed to focus on the prisons' efforts to rehabilitate inmates to become law-abiding citizens and reduce recidivism rates.

Liu said the pilot program also exposed some deeper problems in the system, including the fact that some prisons fail to offer psychological counseling and education courses.

In terms of punishments for offenders, some law enforcement authorities have different standards when it comes to parole and the commuting of sentences.

"Commutation and parole are both important ways to implement changes to penalties. Compared with commutation, parole is more conducive to maintaining the judge's authority and preventing re-offense," Liu said.

However, in practice, a lack of scientific and objective assessment of a criminal's personal risk and proper supervision after release meant the application of parole is still very low, Liu said.



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