Shanghai has invested 1.06 billion yuan ($172 million) over the past five years to improve the infrastructure of its detention centers, among other measures to better protect the legal rights of detainees.
The money was spent on the renovation and expansion of 14 detention centers in the city, 12 of which are already back in operation, according to the Shanghai Public Security Bureau.
"We've taken a series of actions in management approach and legal construction since the 'hide-and-seek' case in 2009," said Huang Zhi, deputy chief of Shanghai police's supervision department, which oversees the city's detention centers.
The "case" is a reference to the death of Li Qiaoming at a detention center in Yunnan province in February 2009. Local police claimed the 24-year-old died while playing hide-and-seek, but an investigation showed Liao was beaten to death by three other inmates.
The case raised public concern about conditions at detention centers and led to nationwide reform on human rights protection for detainees. Any death at a detention center is now put under the spotlight.
"Bullies have long disappeared in Shanghai's detention centers after years of effort," Huang said, adding that protection of inmates has become a key task for detention centers because any accidents will affect evaluations of the local government.
Huang said the 1.06-billion-yuan investment in infrastructure is only part of the efforts to improve the conditions at detention centers. Other measures include installing surveillance cameras in cells to prevent acts of violence, and in interrogation rooms to prevent torture. Detention centers also now provide higher meal standards, better medical care and air conditioning, he added.
Another key improvement, Huang said, was to increase the number of interview rooms for lawyers and detainees from 109 to 210, in an effort to guarantee a meeting could be arranged within 48 hours of a lawyer making an appointment.
"The aim is to offer equal service to the police, prosecutors, and lawyers," said Fan Hongfei, an official with the Shanghai police.
The improvement of detention centers is not unique to Shanghai, and data showed that in 2010 alone, the central government allocated 2.5 billion yuan for the renovation of outdated detention centers.
"Law enforcement must be carried out within the legal framework. Any means not authorized by the law is forbidden," said Qi Yanping, dean of the school of law at the University of Shandong.
He said that although improving the legal framework might result in more procedures at first, which would be unpopular with lower-level officers because they make it harder for them to collect evidence, it would undoubtedly increase efficiency over the long term, and better protect both suspects and police officers.