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Chinese tour prison, jail

August 17, 2002|by KIMBERLY YAKOWSKI

kimy@herald-mail.com

Members of the Chinese Ministry of Justice met with local prison officials and toured area facilities Friday during a visit to learn more about the way the U.S. criminal justice system operates.

The eight-member Chinese delegation toured the Washington County Detention Center, the Maryland Correctional Training Center, the Hagerstown Police Department and the HotSpots high-crime area in Hagerstown.

The Chinese delegation's trip was the fourth in a series of exchange visits between China and the U.S, said MCTC spokeswoman Sharon Rucker. Last year, members of the Maryland State Department of Education toured facilities in China.

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During a panel discussion at MCTC, the delegation members said through interpreter Zhao Youfang that they were intrigued by the home detention ankle monitors used by the detention center.

The ankle bracelets are court-ordered and allow a defendant to remain at home while being monitored, said Daphne Mathews, principal of MCTC's inmate education program.

The home detention equipment uses phone lines to monitor a wearer's location and is equipped with a blood alcohol monitor, she said.

A delegation member said the ankle monitors may not be feasible in China since some remote areas may not have phone lines.

Washington County benefits from the program by not having to house, feed and pay the medical expenses of prisoners on home detention, Mathews said.

The home monitoring system has saved the county $2.5 million since it was implemented in 1989, she said.

Mathews said that despite the language barrier she learned a lot when she traveled to China two or three years ago for a similar tour.

"It makes you reflect on the way we do things," she said.

Translating for the delegation, Youfang said the majority of China's prisoners have committed thefts, robberies and burglaries.

MCTC Warden Michael Stouffer said most of his prisoners are serving time for drug crimes.

Members of the delegation said drug crimes are increasing in China, but the country's treatment of drug users and sellers differs from that in the U.S. China places drug users in treatment centers, and only those convicted of selling drugs are incarcerated, she said.

"They're progressive," Stouffer said of the Chinese criminal justice theories about drug crimes.

Stouffer said he'll take the information he's gained from the delegation and pass it on higher prison officials in the state.

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