17th Biannual Association for Justice-Involved Females and Organizations held in Santa Clara, California.
Dovetailing with Dui Hua’s juvenile justice exchange with China’s Supreme People’s Court held in Shenzhen in November 2017, the foundation has started preparations for its next juvenile justice exchange program with a special focus on girls in conflict with the law. On December 11-13 Dui Hua attended the 17th Biannual Association for Justice-Involved Females and Organizations (AJFO) in Santa Clara, California. Representing Dui Hua were Program & Development Manager, Yin Yu and Program & Publications Associate Xandra Xiao. AJFO’s mission is to create opportunities to share best practices and advance gender responsive outcomes for justice-involved women and girls. The conference drew a crowd of diverse professionals, including formerly incarcerated girls and girls currently on probation; juvenile justice practitioners, advocates, researchers, lawyers, judges; experts in the field of re-entry programs, criminology, and trauma and gender informed practices; and government officials from federal, state and local correctional facilities.
Underlying the conference’s agenda was its goal to promote an international discussion on addressing the fundamental gender and cultural differences faced by women and girls in the criminal justice system. Women and girls involved in the criminal justice system disproportionately experience obstacles such as substance abuse, prostitution and human trafficking, responsibility for child care, economic marginality, and domestic violence. As the assumptions behind incarceration, correctional facilities, and reentry services have been historically designed with men in mind, it is critical to recognize the unique challenges faced by women and girls in the justice system.
The US and China hold the world’s largest populations of incarcerated women. In China, there has been significant growth in the incarceration of women, with the number rising ten times that of men. Acknowledging gender differences matters at all stages in the justice system for women and girls in conflict with the law — it shapes the patterns of offending as well as the system’s response to offenders in the sentencing laws, correctional facilities, and treatment programs that have traditionally centered on male experiences. Gender-responsive strategies for women should include policies and practices that attempt to identify the root cause behind why individual women and girls commit crimes. If rehabilitation is to be successful, then interventions must target the reasons behind women and girl’s pathways to criminality, whether it be issues related to: mental health, substance abuse, trauma, or economic marginality.
Another major takeaway from the workshops was the emphasis placed on recognizing childhood trauma and why gender responsive policies and practices for girls must also be trauma-informed. Practitioners in juvenile justice have only recently begun to understand the gravity and pervasiveness of trauma; the survival and coping mechanisms that girls turn to because of experiencing trauma; and how girls end up being criminalized for such coping mechanisms. On the courts and correctional side, there is growing awareness of how the mere process of going through the criminal justice system from arrest, through to conviction, through to incarceration can re-traumatize girls to the point that they reenter society with more trauma to overcome than before they entered the system. Implementing trauma screenings for girls who enter the criminal justice system, encouraging the use of community-based care, and providing mental health counselling are some examples of how practitioners can begin to provide trauma-informed and gender-responsive care.
Uyghurs are the primary target of the terrorism crackdown in Xinjiang, but there is evidence that Muslims who belong to the Hui minority outside of the restive region are facing similar pressure. An online judgment discovered by Dui Hua indicated that a Hui farmer Ma Shengli (马胜利) was sentenced to two years imprisonment for aiding terrorist activities on July 12, 2017, by the Dali Prefecture Intermediate People’s Court, Yunnan Province. Ma is scheduled for release in September 2018. The judgment stated that Ma used WeChat Pay, a payment method integrated in China’s popular social networking mobile app WeChat, to transfer funds to a Uyghur suspect who had escaped to Istanbul. The Uyghur man allegedly used the money to instigate and help other people to leave China. Ma admitted to sending money to the Uyghur man, but stated in his defence that the money was merely provided as a loan and he was not aware that the Uyghur man had been wanted by public security for splittism. The court dismissed Ma’s plea of innocence in part because he was previously sentenced in 2010 to two years’ imprisonment for organizing several Uyghurs to illegally cross borders and helping them rent apartments in Yunnan before they escaped China. The browsing history on Ma’s mobile phone concerning several Muslim militant groups in the southern Philippines was cited as evidence that he knowingly helped terrorists to escape abroad.
Information recently provided to Dui Hua by a source in the Chinese government revealed the whereabouts of two dissidents serving their sentences for inciting subversion in Guangdong. The information confirmed that rights lawyer Tang Jingling (唐荆陵) is serving his five-year sentence in Zhaoqing Prison and is due for release in April 2019. In addition to providing legal advice for family members of incarcerated activists, Tang is widely known for his pro-democracy work and advocacy of non-violent civil disobedience. Liu Shaoming (刘少明) is currently held in Shaoguan Prison. Liu was sentenced to four years’ imprisonment in July 2017 for writing articles about June Fourth and organizing several labor protests, including a strike at a shoe factory in Panyu in 2014. Liu is set for release in April 2019.
The response also confirmed Dui Hua’s earlier speculation that female Falun Gong practitioner Liang Shaolin (梁少琳)was granted a nine-month sentence reduction in October 2012 and released on December 23, 2017. Liang was sentenced to two-years re-education through labor in 2000. Upon completing the sentence, she was sent to a legal education school to “continue her education” as she was deemed unrepentant. In 2009, Liang was sentenced to nine-years imprisonment for “organizing a cult to undermine implementation of the law.”
Featured: Imprisonment for Crimes No Longer in the Criminal Law (December 20, 2017)
Dui Hua research has uncovered the names of more than 180 individuals serving sentences for hooliganism — a crime removed from the Criminal Law in 1997 — as late as 2015. Dozens of these prisoners are still serving their sentences. Based on circumstantial evidence, Dui Hua believes that one of them may have been convicted of hooliganism for offenses committed during the Spring 1989 protests that rocked China. The last known June Fourth prisoner serving a sentence for hooliganism was Liu Zhihua (刘智华). Liu was released from Loudi Prison in Hunan Province in January 2009.
Previous Digest: December 2017
John Kamm Remembers is a feature that explores Kamm’s human rights advocacy prior to and since Dui Hua’s establishment in 1999
A Prison for Foreigners (Part 1 of 2)
John Kamm with Ministry of Justice and prison administration bureau officials at Dongguan Prison, November 11, 2002.
As 2002 drew to a close, I travelled to Beijing
again to make the final arrangements for the release of Ngawang Sangdrol. It had been a busy year. Dui Hua had announced the release of two other Tibetan political prisoners earlier that year, Jigme Sangpo and ethnomusicologist Ngawang Choephel.
On March 3, I was featured in a cover story in The New York Times Sunday Magazine and in April 11, I delivered testimony to the Congressional Executive Commission on China — “An Arsenal of Human Rights.”
I had travelled to China a number of times that year, including in June to Beijing and Lhasa where I visited Jigme Sangpo, in the home of his niece, at the tail end of my efforts to secure his release and safe passage to the United States. In September, I had visited Beijing shortly after the release of American businessman David Chow from a prison in Harbin after serving eight years of a 15-year sentence. I had worked hard on Chow’s case for several years. His release, together with that of Ngawang Sangdrol on October 17, were intended to lay the groundwork for Jiang Zemin’s state visit to the United States in late October 2002.
On October 9, 2002, I met with officials of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Ministry of Justice the day after I arrived in Beijing. Joint meetings with different ministries are rare, then as now. In addition to discussing Ngawang Sangdrol’s imminent release, I asked that I be allowed to visit a prison before the end of the year. I was told that my request would be considered, and that I should return to Beijing later that month to get an answer.
I returned to Beijing on October 26. I was told that I would be allowed to visit Dongguan Prison in Guangdong Province, one of China’s largest prisons, in two weeks. I would be accompanied by Mr. Zhang Yi, a ranking official of the Ministry of Justice’s Department of Judicial Assistance and Foreign Affairs.
I flew back to Hong Kong to research the prison and to speak to NGOs to ascertain if there were political prisoners incarcerated there. It turned out that Chen Meng, a Shenzhen-based musician, was serving a 12-year sentence in Dongguan Prison for trafficking in state secrets. In November 1994, Chen had faxed to two Hong Kong human rights groups a “blacklist” of political activists barred from leaving or entering China. He had obtained the list from his brother-in-law who worked for the border control police. Chen’s identity was quickly uncovered. Chen, his sister, and his brother-in-law all went to prison. In Chen Meng’s case, that meant entering Dongguan Prison.
On November 10, 2002, I boarded the direct train from Hong Kong to Guangzhou, arriving in Guangdong’s capital city in the late morning. I was met by local officials, with whom I had lunch. After lunch, I was driven to the White Swan Hotel, considered one of the best hotels in the city. (It is situated on Shamian Island, site of the pre-1949 foreign concessions.) Zhang Yi had already arrived. I called his room and we settled on the next day’s program. Afterwards I called John Norris, the American Consul General in Guangzhou.
The next day, November 11, Zhang Yi and I left the hotel after breakfast for the 90-minute drive on the expressway to the prison. Dongguan Prison is situated in Gaobu Township on the outskirts of Shijie village in Dongguan Municipality. We arrived at the prison shortly before 10 AM.
By the time I visited Dongguan Prison, I had already toured six prisons in China, in Beijing, Tianjin, Shanghai, and Guangdong. I knew the routine. Upon arrival, I would be met by a phalanx of officers in full uniform, after which the warden would take me to his conference room where he would deliver a “brief introduction” to the prison. From there, depending on the prison’s layout, one would tour the hospital, kitchen, exhibition space for products made by prisoners, and a cellblock (but almost never solitary confinement cells). Sometimes you could witness prison labor, and, even rarer, one might see performances laid on by prisoners for visitors.
Afterwards everyone would go to a local restaurant where much eating and drinking took place. Those occasions proved to be a good opportunity for effective advocacy, so I reluctantly joined in.
A Brief Introduction
Upon arrival at the prison, Zhang Yi and I were greeted by the warden, Mr. Li Jianping. He introduced us to two senior members of the provincial prison administration bureau, as well as his deputy wardens. Mr. Li, who was to be my guide during the two-hour tour, escorted us to his office, where the group sat down at a mahogany table in his conference room.
Dongguan Prison, Warden Li explained, was established in 1988. In November 1998, it was designated a “ministry level” model prison, a status which enabled it to host high-level central and provincial government officials. At the time of my visit, it housed 5,200 inmates in 15 cell blocks. It held the largest population of Hong Kong-Macau-Taiwan residents and foreigners in China – 700 inmates from 20 territories and countries. Each block had 30 cells (six cells on each of the five floors) measuring 30 square meters each. The cells housed 10-12 inmates each. The prison was overcrowded, well above design capacity.
Foreign prisoners in Dongguan Prison, Guangdong. Image Credit:WenXueCity.Com
Most individuals convicted by courts in Shenzhen and Dongguan Municipalities served their sentences in Dongguan Prison. Those whose household registrations were in those two municipalities but who were convicted by Beijing courts served their sentences in Dongguan Prison. Most foreigners and Hong Kong-Macau-Taiwan residents convicted by Guangdong courts were housed there.
Warden Li explained the management system of the prison. There were four types of prisoners and four types of punishment. The four types of prisoners were those who were serving sentences for violent crimes, smuggling, other economic crimes, and sexual crimes. Well-behaved prisoners would be treated leniently, “ordinary” prisoners would be treated according to standard policies, prisoners whose behavior was sub-standard would be placed under observation (one-third of Hong Kong prisoners were under observation at the time of my visit), and prisoners who violated prison regulations, including violent and dangerous prisoners, would be “strictly managed.” They could be subjected to solitary confinement.
The warden extolled the results achieved by the prison’s management system: 35 percent of all prisoners receive a sentence reduction or parole every year, there was a low recidivism rate of 3.2 percent, and there had been no prison escapes. Because of the high level of care available in the prison’s “Grade A” hospital, medical parole was rarely granted, I was told.
All prisoners were required to do manual labor, except those who were old, weak, or sick, who were placed in their own cell block (prisoners over the age of 55 were considered elderly). The prison made toys and plastic flowers. Since November 1991, none of their products had been exported. (In 1992, the United States and China signed a memorandum of understanding prohibiting trade in products made with prison labor.)
When the briefing was over, our party went to the prison courtyard to watch a program of performances by prisoners, passing along the way the Grade A Prison Hospital. There were many pieces of advanced medical devices in evidence, though not in use.
Anticipating the performance, I sat in the front row, next to Warden Li. We were serenaded by an 18-piece band under an energetic conductor. I was told that this man, dressed in standard prison garb save for a red coat and a jaunty navy cap, was a Hong Kong person serving a life sentence. Throughout the band’s performance, the conductor would turn his head and flash a toothy smile.
One performance in particular stood out. A prisoner from Ghana serving a sentence of death with two-year reprieve performed a skit in which he, dressed as a peasant woman with a rag doll strapped to his back, leapt about the stage singing a plaintive Mandarin song. It bore a striking resemblance to an Al Jolson routine. He looked at me with vacant eyes.
The warden jabbed me with his elbow. “Pretty good, eh?” he said under his breath. “I think we’ll keep him.”
I was outraged. The warden was seeking my opinion as to whether this man’s life should be spared based on an offensive performance with strong racist overtones.
As we left the courtyard and headed for one of the cell blocks, I admonished Warden Li. He responded, in a matter-of-fact way, “Don’t worry about it. No one serving a death with two-year reprieve at my prison has ever been executed. In 2002, 100 prisoners serving sentences of death with two-year reprieve had their sentences commuted, including eight Hong Kong people.”
I replied: “Let me give you a piece of advice. If ever you host a delegation of African-Americans don’t lay on that performance. You will regret doing so. They will not be as polite as me.”
To be continued in Dui Hua’s February Digest.