Jail Told to Stop 24/7 Surveillance of Notorious Criminal

      February 13, 2020 12:49

      A convicted criminal who rose to notoriety in the late 1990s for his skill in evading police dragnets after escaping from prison has filed a complaint with the National Human Rights Commission about "excessive surveillance."

      He complained that all his activities including going to the toilet are exposed to CCTV cameras. The NHRC on Wednesday sided with Shin Chang-won (54) and told prison officials to "take corrective measures."

      This file photo from July 1999 shows Shin Chang-won upon his arrest in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province

      In 1997, Shin escaped from a maximum-security prison in the southern port city of Busan where he was serving an eight-year sentence for homicide and robbery.

      He got his hands on a wire saw from a prison work yard and patiently cut through the bars on his bathroom window for four months, sawing away for 20 minutes a day when guards were not watching.

      He managed to squeeze through a ventilation duct and climbed over the prison wall using a rope he picked up when some construction was done in the jail. It took police two-and-a-half years to catch him again. By some estimates Shin traveled around 400,000 km during that period to evade capture, using various disguises and stolen ID cards to thwart police.

      His exploits made him a folk hero and he gained the nickname "Robin Hood" after rumors spread that he only robbed the rich. But the long arm of the law finally caught up with him when he was identified by a stove repairman while hiding out in an apartment in Suncheon, South Jeolla Province.

      Colorful T-shirts of the kind he wore in photographs of his arrest enjoyed soaring sales in 1999. At the time, police tried to dampen fans' enthusiasm by stressing that he was a common criminal and even stole gold rings given to babies on their first birthday during some 90 burglaries, which netted him W500 million that he soon blew (US$1=W1,180).

      Shin was sentenced to 22 years in prison and has been placed in solitary confinement.

      The prison in Gwangju where he is serving his sentence said Shin is still a flight risk and the camera surveillance is also meant to protect him from self-harm.

      But the NHRC said Shin has not shown any signs of self-harm since a suicide attempt after learning of his father's death. Citing a psychological evaluation from last year that showed Shin's mental condition to be no different than other inmates', the NHRC added the "excessive surveillance for more than 20 years limits his privacy and freedom."

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