Shanghai prison's management innovation

Updated: 2011-12-02 10:51

By Yan Weijue (

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It took everyone by surprise when a go (or weiqi) team chose the Shanghai New Criminal's Prison as one of their home courts in the Chinese Weiqi League for the season in 2005.

The idea was the result of joint efforts by the prison and Shanghai Weiqi Association, who helped build a weiqi team with more than 40 inmates from the prison, in a bid to enrich their leisure time.

Five years after the project, Liu Shizheng, the team's player as well as coach, still retains a clear memory of it.

"It was a big sensation that drew attention from the United Nations," Liu said in a telephone interview on Thursday. "They even sent staff for photos of the game, which they praised as being a big stride in human rights of the inmates."

As the game was held at the administration building, inmates were able to watch from a hall at the cellblock, with an instructor standing by to provide explanation. And they received tips from the pros after the game.

The prison hosted two weiqi games in 2005 and 2006, as the team shifted its home court to another prison. But its innovation of prison management continues.

"The establishment of Shanghai New Criminal's Prison itself is an innovation," says Ma Li, a researcher at the prison. "Unlike most prisons, which are named after their location, it is named for its function."

The Shanghai New Criminal's Prison "is the first of its kind in China," Ma said. "It was set up in 1996 after the Judicial Ministry's approval, for better functional classification."

During the inmates' stay at the prison, their behavior is recorded and graded as reference for the next prison, he said. Meanwhile, the prison assumes the work of verifying the identities and crimes of the inmates. If any errors are found, it reports them to the procuratorate.

Inmates at the prison receive patriotic education and get familiar with the jail routine in addition to labor, according to Ma. He also said the prison cooperates with the local Qingtu Library, with the latter agreeing to provide the prison with 1,000 books and magazines for free every four months and training services for reading.

"So we are trying to blend education into the course of their life and work in the prison," Ma said.

Inmates participate in training and work for eight hours each weekday. On Saturdays they take lessons on jail discipline and other topics. And on Sundays and leisure time after dinner each day, they prepare themselves for a good rest or recreational programs.

"We set up various special interest groups for them, such as weiqi, bridge game and calligraphy," Ma said. "And we put inmates and jailers together to form a band for shows during festivals."

"A prison is a place where social contradictions exist, but it is also supposed to be a place to diminish or even erase them," he added.