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Beijing Prisons Open to Public Visits


Prisons will be less secretive in China from now on. Beijing has decided to open several of its once sealed-off prisons to regular public visits. A Beijing jail opened to the public on Wednesday is the second in the city, following Beijing Women's Prison, opened earlier this month, to welcome outside visitors on certain days. People over 18 years old can now apply for a one-day visit to Beijing Prison, located in the suburbs about one hour's drive from downtown Beijing and home to nearly 2,000 male convicts sentenced to more than 15 years behind bars, the prison authority said. "Nearly 100 people visited the prison on the first opening day, " said Sun Xibin, deputy head of the prison, adding that the first batch were group visitors organized by the Chinese PLA Headquarters of the General Staff and Central China Construction Co. Ltd. The facilities opened to the public include the inmates' living cells, parlors, psychological counseling centers, and the prison's factory, Sun said. He said visitors can meet and talk to inmates under the prison's supervision, but contacts without permission are strictly banned. "A transparent approach under the public's supervision helps improve the quality of prison administration," said Li Zhonglin, an official with Beijing Prisons Administration Bureau. He said opening the prisons makes the inmates feel less isolated from the outside world and will help them reintegrate society after their release. Prison authorities said more prisons will be opened to the public in the future. However, to ensure prison safety, Li said no more than 40 individuals or groups with over 100 visitors should be allowed at one time. Items such as cameras, cell phones, tape recorders, handbags and backpacks cannot be brought into the prison, Li said. Visitors should strictly follow prison guards' instructions and not venture beyond authorized areas.

(Source:Xinhua News Agency, 2006-07-26)