Overcrowded jails sheer hell for inmates
By Irfan Ghauri
ISLAMABAD: The increasing crime rate, flawed judicial system and a backlog of cases in courts have resulted in heavily overcrowded jails in the country where 88,659 inmates are kept against a capacity of 36,557, according o a report by the Interior Ministry.
The report stated that jails in the country had old and dilapidated structures of the 19th century and that there was an acute shortage of jail officials and an insufficient security system could result in a mishap.
There are 89 jails in the country, out of which 30 are in Punjab, 18 in Sindh, 22 in the NWFP, 10 in Balochistan, six in Azad Jammu and Kashmir and three in the Northern Areas. These include 23 central jails, 47 district jails, 13 sub jails, three juvenile jails, two women’s jails and one open jail.
The report revealed that there were only 14,300 staffers to control 89 prisons with one official for seven inmates which was very nominal according to international standards.
In the Punjab jails, there are 52,332 inmates against a capacity of 17,637.
The report highlights the reforms being introduced by the Punjab government to improve prison condition with special reference to observance of human rights. The report stated the provincial government was working to enhance facilities in jails to protect inmates’ rights and provide better accommodation, clothing, bedding, diet, medical, education, vocational training and recreational facilities.
The report said that under the jails reforms programme in Sindh, 400 additional toilets would be built and auto-roti plants have been provided to the central jails in Karachi and Hyderabad and the Malir District Jail. X ray plants have been provided to the Karachi and Hyderabad central jails and arrangements have been made for inmates’ education up to matric. Central jails in Karachi, Sukkur and Hyderababd have been declared examination centres by education boards and universities.
Adult literacy programmes have been introduced in the Karachi Central Jail and the Youthful Offenders Industrial School in Karachi with the collaboration of a non-government organisation. Under the programme, illiterate inmates will acquire basic reading, writing and computational skills.
The Sindh government has also formed teaching centres in the Karachi Central Jail, the Youthful Offenders Industrial School in Karachi and women’s jails in Karachi and Hyderabad.
The report also highlighted the steps taken by the NWFP government to provide better facilities to inmates that include allowing convicts to exercise conjugal rights within certain limits.
A convict facing five years or more jail term can keep his or her spouse in the jail thrice a year for three consecutive days. For this purpose in all central jails of the province five rooms with attached bathrooms and kitchen are being constructed.
The report said the Balochistan government had built bathrooms and installed water coolers in jails. The provincial government was providing special arrangements for couple’s meeting in privacy.
The report recommended that new jails should be built preferably at district level and additional barracks/cells should be built in jails. The report suggested that vulnerable inmates like women, juveniles, foreigners and mental patients should be segregated and better food, medical, hygiene and sanitation conditions should be provided to them.
The report said staff to inmate ratio, which was currently 1:7, should be improved. It further recommended that probation and parole systems should be activated. Latest computerised security system and closed circuit televisions should be installed to update the security system. Skill development centres should be set up in all jails and that the service structure of prison staff should be improved and selected officers should be sent abroad for training.
The report stated that philanthropists and civil society organisations should be encouraged to provide facilities and legal aid to prisoners.
The report also recommended upgrading the Central Jail Staff Training Institute to a national level academy to ensure career-based training for prison staff.