Court makes tougher jail time rules for graft convicts
In the latest move in the fight against graft, a new rule issued by the Supreme People's Court will make it more difficult for people convicted of corruption-related crimes to be paroled or get a reduction of their sentence.
The guideline, which took effect on June 1, states that corrupt convicts cannot be given a parole or a reduction of sentence if they do not plead guilty, or if they fail to carry out property-related court judgments while having the ability to do so.
It also clarifies the conditions under which a prisoner's sentence can be reduced. For example, those convicted of corruption who are sentenced to life in prison may ask for commutation only after serving at least four years. A sentence may be cut to 23 years if the person shows repentance or engages in meritorious behavior.
The new standards are expected to create more consistency, since prison practices have varied in the past. Commutation applications have been made earlier than four years, for example.
"These measures will make reduced sentences or parole more difficult for corrupt inmates," said Ruan Chuansheng, a law professor at the Shanghai Administration Institute.
The guidelines not only show the country's determination to fight graft, he said, but are specific and easy to follow and will therefore help regulate behavior in commutation and parole proceedings to prevent judicial corruption.
Ruan spoke highly of the clause regarding property. In the past, when judicial authorities considered whether or not to grant an inmate parole or commutation, they didn't often take into account whether the convict had fully complied with the verdict.
Xu Hao, a criminal lawyer from Beijing Jingsh Law Firm, said: "It's necessary in creating a basis for sentence reduction or parole to consider whether a corrupt convict has turned over all ill-gotten gains and whether fines have been paid. Those things are indicators of the inmate's sincerity in confessing to the crimes."
In practice, a court hands down a verdict, but the prison can apply for sentence commutation or parole on behalf of the prisoner depending on how he or she behaves in jail. Such applications need to be reviewed by the court.
Xu said more timely and comprehensive information sharing is needed between courts and prisons, so the court gets a clear picture of whether a convict has fully carried out property-related judgments.
"The more effective the information sharing system is, the more accurate the applications and decisions regarding sentence reduction or parole will be," he said.