Prison reform needed
Jeong Seong-hyeon, the 39-year-old suspect in the gruesome Christmas Day slayings of two schoolgirls, is an ex-convict. Before his latest crime, he already had seven criminal offenses for which he’d been sent to prison. After Jeong left prison, he became a desperate criminal.
Another notorious serial killer, Yoo Yeong-cheol, who killed 20 people and was caught in 2004, also committed his brutal crimes after he was released from prison. The two have one thing in common: They had criminal records before they became cruel killers. That means they were not rehabilitated in prison. Instead, prison life led them to commit their most heinous crimes. These ex-prisoners seemed beyond reform.
If Jeong was provided the proper rehabilitation in jail, he might not have committed the brutal murders to which he confessed. In Korea, prison administrators have not shown interest in a drive for prisoners’ enlightenment. Instead, they usually ignore them. In response to criticism over wrongheaded administration, officials claim that the problem was a shortage of prison workers. However, this claim is just an excuse. After the government hired more employees for the prison system, nothing changed. Since the 1980s, about 70 percent of the convicts who come out of prison become second-time offenders.
To prevent the occurrence of crimes by ex-convicts once they are released back to society, it is most urgent for the government to reform the prison system’s correction service for inmates. In addition, Korea needs a government body to maintain focus on these issues.
Cheon Jeong-hwan, Korean Society for Correction Service