Condition of juvenile prisoners worsening
By Waqar Gillani
LAHORE: The plight of juvenile prisoners in Punjab jails is worsening because their number is increasing gradually, a lack of probation staff, especially women officers, and an insufficient number of schools.
This was the consensus at a workshop on Probation and Parole Alternative Justice System held at a local hotel on Thursday. The workshop was arranged by the Society for the Protection of the Rights of the Child (SPARK).
Representatives of the Central Jail Staff Training Institute (CJSTI), Lahore, probation officers, Prisons Department officials, judges, lawyers, journalists and social workers attended the workshop. CJSTI Principal Masood Khan was guest of honour and a keynote speaker. SPARK coordinator Jalil Butt organised the workshop. The speakers said the lack of women probation officers was one of the reasons for the increasing number of juvenile prisoners, especially girls.
The participants said a majority of law officers, policemen and jail staff were ignorant about the juvenile justice system. They demanded certified schools in every Punjab district to rehabilitate juvenile prisoners. Speakers from Sialkot stressed the need for more juvenile jails and implementation of the Juvenile Justice Ordinance and Jail System.
Social work students Irfana Malik and others stressed the need to push the government to implement juvenile laws in letter and spirit. The participants accused the police of not implementing the ordinance completely. The speakers said there was a need to inform police and victims of crime through the press, radio and television.
The participants recommended probation officers help juvenile courts through reports on children’s character, education and social and moral background. It recommended Sections 380, 562, 563 and 564 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC) and Section 16 of the Probation of Offenders Ordinance 1960 be deleted and reviewed. Talented people, philanthropists, humanists and Islamic institutions should be encouraged to provide voluntary guidance to delinquents.
The workshop also recommended that the Probation of Offenders Ordinance 1960 and the Good Conduct Prisoners Probation Release Act 1926 should be implemented in letter and spirit. Registrars should direct lower courts to put petty criminals on probation. Courts should also call the Social Investigation Reports (SIR) from probation officers as required under the law.
The workshop also recommended that male prisoners over 60 except those involved in murder cases be released on parole. A substantive sentence to be undertaken inside the prison for release on parole should be reduced to six years.