Monday, February 17, 2014, 08:08
Guangzhou to establish detention centers for petty offenders with short jail terms
By ZHENG CAIXIONG in Guangzhou

Guangzhou plans to build two detention centers to house people guilty of minor crimes such as driving while under the influence of alcohol and fraud.

Wan Yunfeng, president of the No 1 Criminal Court at Guangzhou Intermediate People’s Court, said a men’s center will be built in Tonghe, a township in the Baiyun district, and the city’s women’s drug rehabilitation center will undergo reconstruction to house inmates guilty of non-drug crimes.

“People who commit minor crimes such as drunk driving offenses, theft, fraud, assault and robberies will be sent to the criminal detention centers to serve their sentences,” Wan said in a recent news conference.

The centers will not house people convicted of more serious crimes, such as murder. 

“Those who have been sentenced to no more than two years and who waive appealing to higher courts can be placed in the centers to serve their sentences,’’ he added.

Courts across the southern metropolis will further simplify and speed up trial procedures for these offenses, Wan said.

Courts in Guangzhou’s Nansha district have already taken a lead in streamlining procedures.

A man named Zhang who rode a motorbike while under the influence of alcohol was sentenced to one month in a detention center on Jan 23. Zhang was sentenced in court one day after being arrested.

Guangzhou will become the first city on the mainland to build criminal detention centers since China dismantled the laojiao system, in which minor offenders underwent a period of forced re-education through labor.

Peng Peng, a senior researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said building criminal detention centers will help authorities handle minor offenders.

 “Criminals are put into detention centers after they are sentenced by courts to serve their terms, while the detainees in former labor camps were never sentenced by courts,” Peng said.

Laojiao camps used to be directly operated by the public security departments. Police had the right to place petty offenders in laojiao camps without a court ruling.

Zhang Riyi, an associate professor at Guangzhou City Polytechnic, said the new criminal detention centers will play an important role in ensuring social order.