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Jails damaged, prisoners safe
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08:48, May 23, 2008

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None of the thousands of prisoners in the earthquake-stricken areas of Sichuan province was killed or injured, a provincial justice official said.

"All prisoners, guards and their families in Sichuan have been reported to be safe," Ji Chang, an official with the Ministry of Justice, told China Daily yesterday.

"No prison structure collapsed, although some suffered damage," Ji said.

He said all prisoners had been transferred to safe locations and others held at temporary shelters.

There are four prisons in the quake-hit areas, all under the jurisdiction of the Sichuan provincial department of justice.

Wang Weiping, an official with the Sichuan provincial prison management bureau, said the situation at Aba Prison, one of the main prisons, remains stable.

The nearly 50-year-old prison was refurbished at the end of 2005 with new dormitories, monitoring equipment, clinics, kitchens and cafeterias.

"Immediately after the quake last week we lost all communication with the prison, but now it has been restored. They reported everything was alright," Wang said.

Aba Prison lies in Maoxian county of the Aba Tibetan and Qiang autonomous prefecture, one of the worst-hit areas in the May 12 quake.

Most of the prisoners and guards have been living in tents for the past 10 days for fear of more aftershocks, Wang said.

Vice-minister of justice Chen Xunqiu visited Sichuan last week and called for the safety and stability of all prisons in the province.

A report on the website of the Ministry of Justice said that a train from Beijing with 89 criminals was heading to Aba Prison when the quake hit.

The ministry immediately cancelled the original destination and took the criminals to Yuzhong Prison in Shanxi province.

Three other damaged prisons have transferred about 2,421 prisoners to safe areas, Sichuan Daily reported.

At Xinyuan Prison more than 450 m of walls collapsed. All 360 prisoners were transferred to another facility.

At Chongzhou Prison, a total of 704 prisoners and more than 100 guards were transferred to a new prison in Chongzhou city.

Guangyuan Prison located deep in a mountain was the worst hit.

After trekking over damaged bridges, tunnels, and mountain paths, 1,357 prisoners escorted by 168 guards finally reached a safe supervision area 3 km away last Tuesday.

Source: China Daily

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