Predicaments in Prisoners’ Institutional Rehabilitation for Parole Release: Some Evidence from Malaysia

Publication Date01 March 2018
The Howard Journal Vol57 No 1. March 2018 DOI: 10.1111/hojo.12242
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 77–93
Predicaments in Prisoners’
Institutional Rehabilitation for Parole
Release: Some Evidence from
Zaiton Hamin is Associate Professor, Mohd Bahrin Othman is Senior Lecturer,
and Rafizah Abu Hassan is Senior Lecturer, Faculty of Law, Universiti
Teknologi MARA Shah Alam, Selangor, Malaysia
Abstract: Institutional rehabilitation is significant because the Parole Board’s decision
in releasing a prisoner would depend on the rehabilitation report. Such rehabilitation
programmes and assessment have been implemented by rehabilitation officers with con-
siderable challenges. This article reports the findings on such challenges in five local
prisons in Malaysia. The primary data were obtained from qualitative interviews with
prison rehabilitation officers, parole officers, prisoners, and Parole Board members. The
findings reveal that these operational predicaments reconnected not only to the officers’
role, qualification, expertise, and professionalism but also to the policies and priorities of
their respective prisons.
Keywords: parole; Parole Board; predicaments; prisoners; rehabilitation
Parole has been established for the purpose of rehabilitating prisoners
and successfully reintegrating them back into the community (Champion
2002). The importance of releasing prisoners under the parole system
is to identify prisoners who have the best chance for rehabilitation while
serving their sentence, and those who pose the least threat to public safety
(Paparazzi and Guy 2009). Who is to be paroled is a question that has vital
importance in the field of corrections today and the parole selection process
by the Parole Board members has grave consequences on the effectiveness
of the entire parole system (Cromwell and Del Carmen 1999). Padfield
(2007) contends that a broad spectrum of criteria needs to be considered
by the Parole Board in releasing prisoners on parole. Such considerations
include: (i) the nature and circumstances of the offence; (ii) the rehabilita-
tion and conduct of the prisoners while in treatment in custody; and (iii)
the likelihood that the prisoners will commit further offences. However,
2017 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd
Published by John Wiley & Sons Ltd, 9600 Garsington Road, Oxford OX4 2DQ, UK
The Howard Journal Vol57 No 1. March 2018
ISSN 2059-1098, pp. 77–93
the rehabilitation of prisoners in an institution and public protection are
often cited as the overarching criteria (Naylor and Schmidt 2010).
The duties of a prison rehabilitation officer in preparing prisoners are
vital because the prisoners’ participation in a rehabilitation programme
within the institution is a major factor in their preparation for parole
placement. Also, such an institutional rehabilitation seems to have an im-
pact on the Parole Board’s decision whether or not to place a prisoner on
parole (Abadinsky 2009). Accordingly, a rehabilitation programme, treat-
ment, and education in prisons are crucial in preparing the prisoners for a
successful reintegration into the community and in preventing recidivism
(Chin and Dandurand 2012). Such is the case: (i) because the prisoners
released from correctional institutions would face various challenges that
may hinder their abilities to become law-abiding citizens; and (ii) because
of the need to protect public safety and reduce recidivism as the goals of
the parole system (Griffiths, Dandurand and Murdoch 2007).
Within the global context, a number of studies have documented
the difficulties faced by rehabilitation officers in rehabilitating prisoners.
A study by Criminal Justice Alliance (2012) in the UK has shown the
difficulty faced by rehabilitation officers to rehabilitate prisoners due to
prison overcrowding and the constraints of physical space. Such factors
have placed huge demands on rehabilitation services, which along with
the lack of physical space have hindered many prisoners from accessing
the rehabilitation programmes (Criminal Justice Alliance 2012). The same
predicaments were experienced by Australia’s prisoner rehabilitation
providers, particularly in maintaining a high standard of rehabilitation
programme delivery (Heseltine, Day and Sarre 2011). Likewise, in
Canada, it has been problematic to ensure that the rehabilitative treatment
of prisoners matches their target criminogenic needs (Wormith et al.
2007). In another study, Petersilia (2007) highlights the difficulties in the
assessment of prisoners’ rehabilitation in an institution for parole release
due to the lack of expertise and internal conflicts between institutional
officers involving the preparation of rehabilitation reports.
In the case of neighbouring Asian countries, the Indonesian govern-
ment has also faced difficulties in keeping up with prison overcrowding
and the influx of new prisoners, which have impacted the institutional
rehabilitation programmes. As a result, the prisons’ operational resources
are diverted to accommodating the ever-growing number of prisoners,
leaving insufficient resources for vital services, including rehabilitation
programmes (Sudaryono 2013). In Singapore, Leong (2014) indicates
that although the institutional rehabilitation programmes are already in
place, rehabilitation officers have been facing challenges in adapting to
new rehabilitation instruments and frameworks on top of their heavy
workloads. In the case of Thailand, the prisons are developing a sharper
focus on institutional rehabilitation, yet it has been difficult for the
correctional officers to maintain the said treatment due to overcrowding
issues (Morgan and Morgan 2015).
Research into the parole system in Malaysia is not as well developed as
that in other jurisdictions. Little research has been done to explore the
2017 The Howard League and John Wiley & Sons Ltd

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