Inmates' Rights Protection in China's Prisons
October 14,2014   By:CSHRS

Feng Jiancang

I. Introduction to Chinese Prison System
Prisons are the State's organ for executing criminal punishment. Chinese laws require that criminals condemned to a fixed term sentence, life sentence, or to death penalty with a two-year reprieve should serve their terms in prisons. China's highest judicial administrative organ is the Ministry of Justice whose Bureau of Prison Administration, manages the country's prisons. According to the levels of prison administration, prisons are divided into three categories: Currently there is the only one prison in category I, directly under the Ministry of Justice. Provincial prisons, namely under the charge of prison administrative organs of provinces (autonomous regions or municipalities), belong to category II. The majority of Chinese prisons fall in this category. The last category is made up of prisons at regional or city level, which in light of gender and age of inmates are also divided into three types: prisons for men above 18, for women above 18 and juvenile delinquent reformatory.

II. Basic Rights Enjoyed by Chinese Inmates
The issue of basic rights for inmates is an important component of the overall human rights. On March 14, 2004, China's Second Session of the Tenth National People's Congress passed the amendment to the basic law — Constitution of the People's Republic of China, into which "the State respects and protects human rights" is included. Since the issue of the first white paper on human rights in 1991, China has successively published a series of white papers showing its protection and improvement of concerning human rights. These white papers also cover the rights protection for inmates, a special group in society. In 1992, the Chinese government promulgated the white paper Criminal Reform in China, introducing with facts the country's basic principles and achievements in reforming criminals, as well as the rights enjoyed by criminals during their incarceration. China's Prison Law promulgated in 1994 prescribes the rights for inmates, involving their personal civil and political rights, as well as their communications with the outside. According to law, China's prison administrative organs have also put forth a series of related measures to protect inmates' rights. Currently, China has joined international human rights conventions that require signatory nations to fulfill relevant obligations that include the rights protection for inmates. China submits regular reports to monitoring committees of international conventions, on the protection of human rights, which contain the rights protection for inmates.