The Hong Kong government will spend more than HK$677,000 per prisoner next year after injecting HK$5.1 billion into the Correctional Services Department’s budget – a boost of almost 10 per cent.

Roy Tam 47 democrats
Pro-democracy activists were transferred onto a prison van on March 3, 2021. File Photo: Studio Incendo.

The department will receive HK$400 million more funding than in 2021, according to the 2022 budget delivered by Financial Secretary Paul Chan on Wednesday. The latest injection for the corrections department is 9.9 per cent more than what it was originally allocated in 2021, and is 8.3 per cent more than its revised spending last year.

Hong Kong’s prisons will expect to house a daily average of 7,240 inmates in the coming year, rising from an average of 6,628 inmates recorded in 2020. Prison occupancy is subsequently expected to increase from 70.1 per cent to 76 per cent.

Made with Flourish

Together with detainees in rehabilitation centres and drug addiction treatment centre programmes, the government estimated that it will have a total of 7,630 individuals in its prison system. The 2022 budget figures mean that, on average, the authorities are spending an average of HK$677,337 per detainee.

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In comparison, an average working person in Hong Kong makes HK$216,000 a year.

More budget for prisons than rehab

Of the HK$5.1 billion commitment, HK$3.95 billion will be poured into the department’s prison management operations – 9.8 per cent more than what it was estimated to have spent last year. The department overspent its original budget by about 2.6 per cent last year.

Meanwhile, the department’s re-integration arm – which runs rehabilitative education and training programmes for released prisoners and people suffering from drug abuse – will only see a 4 per cent increase in budget.

However, despite having to cater to an increasing number of inmates, the department will not see its staffing increase – it will retain 7,281 posts in total next year, the same as the previous year’s.

Prison van Stand News West Kowloon court
A corrections vehicle leaves the West Kowloon Law Courts Building on December 30, 2021. Photo: Kelly Ho/HKFP.

Prison officers and civil servants in the department will see their total salaries increase by 7.8 per cent this year, or HK$247 million. The rise in staffing expenses is the result of a revised salary structure for personnel in the disciplinary forces that came into effect last September after it received unanimous approval at the legislature, now dominated by pro-establishment lawmakers.

Although the department spent about 40 per cent less on machinery, equipment, and vehicles than what was originally allocated last year, the government will nevertheless double its budget for gear and vehicles from HK$128 million to HK$275 million.

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Selina Cheng is a Hong Kong journalist who previously worked with HK01, Quartz and AFP Beijing. She also covered the Umbrella Movement for AP and reported for a newspaper in France. Selina has studied investigative reporting at the Columbia Journalism School.