Life-changing opportunities come to foreign prisoners
Officials at Thu Duc jail have turned it into a place of education and support for its nearly 200 foreign prisoners, helping them become a better version of themselves before returning home.
Prisoners at the Thu Duc jail (Photo: VNA)
Along with policies on meals, clothing, and healthcare services, regulations like reducing prison time and amnesties have been introduced for foreign prisoners, as they have been for Vietnamese prisoners.
Policies allowing foreign prisoners to meet relatives and have consular contact are also in place.
John Nguyen, a prisoner of the American nationality, said he has been in jail for 19 years and found the people and environment friendly enough. Any time his family members visit, they feel peace of mind and encourage him to behave himself, he said.
Closing the book he was reading, Nicholas Stars, a 42-year-old Nigerian, said he has served five years and has ten to go. Using his good Vietnamese, he said he enjoys the meals and comfortable environment.
“The officers here are kind,” he said. “I have a consular meeting every four months, and my family visit me once or twice a year. I feel okay.”
Foreign prisoners have received vocational training and academic studies and joined artistic and sporting activities, so can more readily return to society and become useful citizens.
Work is designed to suit the age and physical condition of each prisoner, helping them understand the value of labour while nurturing their confidence.
Chinese national Li Chun Ying said that thanks to advice given by wardens, she now feels much better than when she first arrived.
“Female prisoners are treated well,” she said. “Not only do we receive life’s necessities, we can also study Vietnamese, play sports, sing karaoke, and access healthcare services when we are sick.” Li has won many of the table tennis tournaments held at the jail.
“I am grateful to the officials here, who have made me feel at home.”
Speaking of her time in Thu Duc, Thai prisoner Preayamooch said the living conditions are totally different from what she had imagined. The officers are friendly and helpful, allowing her to settle into life behind bars, while she is subject to the same policies as her Vietnamese peers.
“My family are happy to see the conditions I live in and encourage me to follow the regulations and return home as soon as possible,” she said.
As part of efforts to educate prisoners, officers have focused on teaching them Vietnamese, through which they can also gain a better understanding of Vietnamese culture.
Peng Kang Yu, a Taiwanese who is monitor of the Vietnamese class, said studying the local language helps prisoners become closer together. Knowing how to read Vietnamese also allows them to read books from the jail’s library.
Preayamooch said that after returning to Thailand, she will find a job relating to Vietnam and continue using her Vietnamese skills.
Mohd Hafiz Gomez Bin Abdullah, a Malaysian who was quite unruly when he first arrived at the jail 19 years ago, said the support from jail officers changed him and made him determined to change his ways.
He said through learning Vietnamese he has come to love the culture and people of Vietnam.
“I have enjoyed seven sentence reductions and only have ten more months here,” he said with a smile. “It will pass quickly. Along with my family, I also have a Vietnamese girlfriend waiting for me outside.”
Before returning to Australia, Kevin Willia De Santos wrote: "I have served my sentence in Vietnam for four years and 11 months. While here, I have been fairly treated, even sometimes better-than-expected...I always feel comfortable and safe during the days of serving the sentence."
Colonel Pham Thi Minh Hai, an officer at the Thu Duc jail, said that, like their peers in other jails, officers at Thu Duc have worked hard to help prisoners, including foreigners, recognise their wrongdoings and become better people.
“This is not a place for caging and punishing criminals, but a place to educate and support them so they become more confident and reset their lives,” Hai said.
“They are not ‘prisoners’ as such, they are people fixing their mistakes,” he added, emphasising that their management and education must be in line with the law and in the spirit of humanitarianism and respect, ensuring their human rights.
“By doing this, we can turn jails into schools for those who had chosen the wrong paths,” Hai said./.VNA