Inmate labor raising effectiveness of inmate education and reform

Labor is also a way to motivate prisoners to exercise health and acquire an occupation in order to boast a proactive position in reintegrating into the community, help them grow better and beneficial for the society.

Inmates read books at the Dak P’lao Prison Library. Photo: Dan Tri

In Vietnam, since 1945 the law on execution of imprisonment sentences has always considered labor a fundamental element of the inmate education regime. According to the traditional theory of combined punishment and education, labor is always a duty of inmates. Under the 2015 Penal Code (revised in 2017) (the Penal Code), inmates must serve their imprisonment sentences and work and learn so as to become useful to the society.

Compared to other daily activities of inmates, their working activities are to be carried out throughout their sentence serving period and exert important effects on their education and reform results. Through these activities inmates can learn working skills and generate some incomes for their future community integration. That’s why the Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments seeks to improve the inmate labor regime primarily for raising the effectiveness of inmate education and reform.

Simultaneous, teaching occupation in the detention camp would help inmates orient their occupation and seek a proper job after the release, therefore, they could better immerse themselves in the normal social life and have their living more stable. 

Rights and obligations of prisoners

Constitution adopted in 2013 stipulates: “In the Socialist Republic of Vietnam, human rights and citizens’ rights in the political, civil, economic, cultural and social fields shall be recognized, respected, protected and guaranteed in accordance with the Constitution and law”; “Citizens’ rights are inseparable from citizens’ obligations”; “Citizens shall perform their obligations toward the State and society” (Article 14,15).

It is also regulated that: “Citizens have the right to work and to choose their occupations, employment, and workplaces”; “The State shall encourage and create the conditions for organizations and individuals to create jobs.” (Article 35, 57).

The Criminal Code 2015 (amended and supplemented in 2017) stipulates: “For persons sentenced to imprisonment, they must be compelled to serve their sentences in detention camps, to labor and study so as to become persons useful to society”(Article 3).

The organization of labor for inmates derived from the humanitarian policy of the Party and the State for the sake of prisoners, aiming to help them re-educate and improve their lives. Source: Internet

The 2019 Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments mentioned rights and obligations of prisoners, including the right to work, study, apprenticeship, and obligations: Execution of the judgment, the decision of the Court which have become legally effective, the decisions of criminal judgment execution management agencies and decisions of other competent agencies; Execute the regulation of the detention facilities and standards of the judgment execution emulation; Comply with requests, orders, and instructions of detention camps; Work, study and engage in vocational training according to regulations.

Clauses 30 and 32 of the law also regulate particularly the labor of inmates. For details, the prisoners are divided into teams to work, study, and live; inmates are organized to work depending on their age, health and meet the requirements of management, education, and community integration.

Labor offenders must be under the supervision and management of prisons and detention camps. Prisoners' working time must not exceed 08 hours per day and 05 days a week, and are entitled to rest on Sundays, public holidays, New Year holidays according to the provisions of law…; Female prisoners are assigned for suitable jobs in accordance with gender; not be arranged to do jobs without using female workers according to the provisions of the labor law ; Inmates who are sick or have physical or mental defects, depending on the severity and nature of the disease and on the basis of medical indications of the prisons or detention camps, the working time is exempted or reduced; Inmates are entitled to work leave in the following cases:

a) The offender is ill, is not healthy enough to work and is certified by the prison health;

b) The offender is being treated at a medical facility;

c) The offender has a child under 36 months old who is living with his mother in a prison and is sick with certification of the prison health;

d) Pregnant female inmates are entitled to work leave before and after giving birth according to the provisions of the labor law.

With the aforementioned provisions, any inmates including Vietnamese citizens or foreigners, no matter how their condition and legal status required to serve in detention facilities must work and study, do an apprenticeship to become a useful citizen in the society ... In other words, labor is both the right and the obligation of the offender in the course of serving the Court's judgment in detention facilities.

Labor of inmates in Vietnam is conducted under the Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments, deriving from the Court's rulings (an offender is a person who is declared guilty by the Court, subject to a penalty and must execute the judgment execution decision of the Court), placed under the supervision and administration of the prison, and at the same time they are not transferred or placed under the use of private individuals, corporations or private associations. .. Hence, offender's labor can be asserted among the five “exceptional” cases which are not considered forced labor under ILO’s Conventions 29 and 105.

Labor of inmates in Vietnam is also one of the "exceptions" provided by the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (OHCHR), which was passed by the United Nations General Assembly on December 16, 1966, and took effect as of March 23 in1976. Article 8 Part III of the Convention states: The term "forced or compulsory labor" does not include any work or service that would normally require a person to be detained under legal rulings of the Court the Tribunal or a person who is conditionally released must work ... (in countries where imprisonment with labor penalty applies).

The guidelines and policies of the Party and the State of Vietnam regard inmates’ labor in prisons not to be activities for business purposes but as labor, vocational guidance, and vocational training activities. The motto of suppression combining with leniency, punishment combining with re-education, labor, career guidance, and vocational training transform inmates with thinking of parasite, lazy working, not respectful labor products, into those who know how to value genuine, organized, disciplined, technically skilled labor.

At the same time, the organizations of labor, career guidance and vocational training in prisons also provide inmates better health, orient career, improve skills and working habits that help them to seek for suitable jobs and soonly immerse themselves in society after leaving the camp.

Article 34 of the Law on Execution of Criminal Judgments in 2019 also mentioned the exploitation of offender's labor results after subtracting reasonable expenses that are used for food supplement for prisoners; to set up a Community Integration Fund to support inmates after completing their imprisonment sentence service; add to the prison welfare and reward fund; to provide support for investment back in prisons in service of organizing labor, education and vocational training for prisoners, improving skills for inmates to prepare for their imprisonment sentence; pay part of the labor force to inmates directly involved in the production, support for prisoners with occupational accidents, among others.

Statistics from the Police Department of Management of Prison, Compulsory Re-education Center and Reformatory under the Ministry of Public Security, in the past 10 years (from 2010 to 2019), the detention camps have joined with many organizations and units to hold series of course for labor arrangement and vocational training for inmates (successfully organized 6,757 training classes for 368,183 prisoners; issued vocational certificates for 31,044 prisoners).

Also in the past 10 years, the prisons have extracted from the results of inmates' labor and apprenticeship: over VND 436 billion (USD 18.9 million) for rewards and supplement food for prisoners; over VND 109 billion (USD 4.8 million) to support prisoners to reintegrate into the community; over VND 138 billion (USD 6 million) spent on organizing training, vocational training, fostering and skill improvement for prisoners, among others.

Translated by Ly Vu