Pol Col Narat said Justice Minister Somsak Thepsuthin told a meeting of senior executives yesterday that he has informed the cabinet of the problem and will table a proposed solution.
The plan is for a steel mezzanine level to be built in the existing sleeping quarters, in addition to the existing sleeping floor, to provide more space for inmates to sleep.
At next week’s cabinet meeting, Mr Somsak would seek approval to draw 178 million baht from the central fund to build the mezzanine floors at 93 prisons throughout the country.
A survey will also be made to determine the capacity of each prison and whether it is overcrowded. If so, inmates could be moved to other prisons, as deemed suitable, Pol Col Narat said.
Earlier yesterday deputy government spokeswoman, Rachada Dhnadirek, confirmed Thailand currently has less sleeping space in prisons than there are inmates. There are 143 prisons in all with a combined sleeping space of 305,000 square metres to accommodate 254,000 inmates.
In reality, however, prisons currently house 374,052 inmates. The number falls below the standard sleeping space set by the United Nations at 1.2 square metres per male inmate and 1.1 square metres per female inmate, according to the deputy spokeswoman.
Ms. Rachada also confirmed cabinet has given the green light for the procurement of 30,000 electronic monitoring (EM) bracelets for offenders on probation at a cost of 877 million baht.
In addition, laws will either be amended or passed to effectively deal with legal disputes and facilitate the transfer of foreign inmates back to their home countries.
Ms Rachada said where appropriate, jail sentences for people convicted of certain crimes will be suspended or reduced. She added new prisons will be constructed to create more space, while at the same time, the government will attempt to change the view among some drug offenders that going to jail is better than undergoing a rehabilitation programme.
Ms Rachada said the drug prevention programmes will be given priority as they come under state-sponsored projects, some of which are to be piloted in northern provinces.
At present, there are 9,564 inmates jailed for drug offences who are being or waiting to be rehabilitated. There are also 14,275 foreign inmates from 103 countries.
Drug offenders make up the largest number of inmates, at 288,648.
Meanwhile, the Corrections Department has ordered prisons to launch strict screening procedures for new inmates, particularly those from China, to prevent any spread of the potentially deadly coronavirus.
Pol Col Narat Sawettanan, director-general of the Corrections Department, said there are 328 Chinese inmates in Thai jails, including 14 jailed since the beginning of the month.
He said all recently jailed inmates go through health screening. If they show signs of a fever, they will be quarantined in isolated cells and observed for up to 14 days.