Prisons in Guangdong province have launched a public WeChat account for relatives of inmates in order to help them obtain information about their locked-up loved ones.
According to China Daily, the Guangdong Prison account allows families to chat with staff members at the prison, ensuring they receive more regular updates about the inmates.
A statement issued by the Guangdong Prison Administrative Bureau has explained that “family members of inmates in Guangdong can immediately know what the inmates are doing in the prisons via the country’s most popular instant messaging tool”.
The statement continued to say that administrative personnel and prison officers will be able to instantly answer all the questions asked by family members on the WeChat platform.
Already, the account has attracted over 1,000 users who have left more than 170 messages and comments since the start of trial operations a week ago.
On top of learning about the lives of their relatives in prison, family members can obtain information about inmates’ health, changes to their prison terms and can even ask how much pocket money a relative has.
Wang Peiwen, director of the Gaoming Prison in Foshan, has said that the WeChat account serves to increase transparency of the bureau’s operations. Other measures include blogs and open days.
“Family members can also learn when they will be allowed to visit inmates and what they can bring with them via the WeChat platform,” Wang told local media. According to the statement, last year, Guangdong’s provincial government invested more than 20 million yuan ($3.2 million) to help make the prison system more transparent.
Peng Peng, a senior researcher at the Guangzhou Academy of Social Sciences, said the launch of the WeChat account is just one example of how internet technology is being used to improve the way prisons are run.
Peng commented that “it will help to protect the human rights and other legal rights and interests of the inmates”.
By Freya Twigden