About Taiping Prison
The Taiping Prison, established in 1879 is the first and oldest modern prison complex in the Malay States.
The prison holds inmates on death row, those with lifetime sentences, life sentences, long-term and short-term sentences, the Sultan’s wards, high court detainees, sessions court detainees, magistrate court detainees, SOSMA detainees, extradition detainees, and immigration detainees.
During their internment, inmates are given vocational training options such as woodworking, welding, rattan craft, sewing, ceramics, laundry, and printing as a means for them to earn a living for themselves post-incarceration. Religious studies are also taught as a part of their moral rehabilitation, with religious sermons and congregational prayer practiced. Counseling services are also available, especially for inmates with drug-related offenses.
The prison is administered by a Prison Director with the title of Senior Assistant Commissioner of Prison, with 430 uniformed support staff, and 40 civilian staff.
History of Taiping Prison
Taiping Prison in 1879 was known as Perak Prison, and more commonly known as Taiping Gaol. It was built as a prison by the British mainly to hold convicts of the Ghee Hin and Hai San clan wars that embroiled the state of Perak into turmoil. In time it housed Malays that rebelled against the British, and all other criminals found guilty under colonial law.
The earliest physical structures of the prison buildings were 5 prison blocks, built half out of brick, that were interconnected with each other. Each prison block could house 50 inmates. The compound was a plot of land 5,159 hectares in area, and was fenced off by a 9 foot wooden barricade. The prison was built by prisoners of war and prisoners of the British Empire from India and Africa. Materials for the construction of the prison were imported from England by the British East India Company.
Before the construction of the prison, convicts were detained by the local administrator, in this case Orang Kaya Menteri Ngah Ibrahim, at his residence. It has been documented that the site of the Taiping Gaol is where Ngah Ibrahim’s father, Long Jaafar, initially discovered tin in Taiping (which was then known as Klian Pauh).
In 1881, Sikh wardens from India were brought in to assist the local Malay wardens, and vocational trainers brought in from Hong Kong marked the beginning of prison industry.
In 1882, inmates were classified into categories.
In 1889, a European warder was appointed.
In 1896, when the Federated Malay States (F.M.S.) was formed, Taiping prison housed inmates with long sentences from across the F.M.S..
From 1941 to 1945, the prison was taken over by the Japanese occupying forces and was used as a prison and detention center for prisoners-of-war. All records of the prison and its inmates were destroyed during this period.
After World War II, modern administrative methods and modern rehabilitation concepts were introduced to the prison.
In 1960, the prison, who was always under the administration of the British, was handed over to be administered by the Malaysian government.
In 1992, the prison was officially renamed to Taiping Prison.
In 2012, Taiping Prison was gazetted as a National Heritage Site by the National Heritage Department.
Taiping Prison is stop number 36 on the Taiping Heritage Trail.
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