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Lives of foreign inmates in Vietnam prison

Friday, July 10, 2020, 17:00 GMT+7
Lives of foreign inmates in Vietnam prison
Foreign prisoners read books in the library at Z30D prison in Binh Thuan Province, south-central Vietnam, in this undated photo. Photo: Vietnam News Agency

A prison in south-central Vietnam is helping foreign convicts prepare for a life of freedom, the Vietnam News Agency recently reported.

The Thu Duc (Z30D) prison in Binh Thuan Province is home to nearly 200 foreign prisoners from 21 different countries and territories, including eight inmates with unspecified nationality, according to Colonel Pham Thi Minh Hai, the prison’s deputy warden.

Nearly every aspect of prison life for foreign inmates, including living conditions, healthcare, assessment, emulation, and family visitation are governed by a set of Vietnamese laws similar to those regulating life for Vietnamese convicts.

The foreign prisoners at Z30D are housed in a set of barracks surrounded by trees and flowers. Each is cleaned daily, well lit, and equipped with a television and full range of essential personal items.

Other goods can be bought using money from the prion’s deposit service, which allows family and friends to directly transfer money to prisoners’ accounts.

Prisoners who were not able to receive money due to the novel coronavirus disease (COVID-19) pandemic are being financially supported by the prison.

John Nguyen, an American prisoner 19 years into his sentence, told the Vietnam News Agency that, all things considered, he has had a relatively good experience at Z30D thanks to its friendly environment and staff.

Nguyen’s sentiments were echoed by fellow inmate Nicholas Stars, a 42-year-old Nigerian national who has spent the last five years of his 15-year sentence studying Vietnamese.

“Overall, it’s very good,” he said. “I have ten more years, but I’ll try to finish sooner.”

A prisoner in Vietnam can have their prison sentence reduced if they maintain a good rehabilitation record, according to the current law on execution of criminal judgments.

Stars’ ability to spout fluent Vietnamese is not an anomaly amongst the foreigners at Z30D.

Those serving their jail terms are taught the Vietnamese language as well as the country’s culture and legal and civic systems.

Mohd Hafiz Gomez Bin Abdullah, a Malaysian male prisoner whose sentence has been reduced seven times since his conviction, shared that life in Z30D has transformed him from an unruly inmate to a man capable of making positive contributions to society.  

Part of the rehabilitation program at the prison involves vocational training, academic education, art, and sports. 

“I’ve won the top prizes in table tennis competitions many times at the camp,” said Li Chun Ying, a Chinese female inmate.

“I speak little Vietnamese, but I really want to thank the board of supervisors and officials because they’ve made me feel like family.”  

Preayamooch, a female inmate from Thailand, said that the living conditions at Z30D were nothing like she had imagined.

According to Preayamooch, foreigners are entitled to the same treatment as their Vietnamese counterparts and are even allowed heartier meals during the Lunar New Year and their home country’s National Day.

The prisoners are also given regular medical check-ups and can take a rest from penal labor when they are sick. 

So, how do Vietnam’s foreign inmates plan to spend their post-prison life? 

For some, like Preayamooch, freedom might mean making use of newfound skills to better both themselves and those around them.

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