ISLAMABAD: Women prisoners housed in Haripur Central Jail are residing near the male prison, making them vulnerable to sexual violence in case of jail riots.

The male prison also houses hardcore criminals and even Taliban militants; there are over 1,700 male prisoners, and 31 female prisoners.

Compiled by members of the federal ombudsman advisory committee, which visited the prison in July 2015, the detailed report on prisoners – with special focus on women and children – claims that prisons in close vicinity of hardcore criminals should be separated.

The report cites complaints by women prisoners, who say they are not allowed to use cots. This could potentially risk their lives, due to the presence of snakes and scorpions. The report calls for the provision of humane bedding for all inmates.

It also calls for limited use of restraints on pregnant prisoners, and the provision of routine reproductive healthcare. The report also recommends that women prisoners be allowed to retain custody of their newborns while incarcerated.

The report states that most women prisoners had been awarded long-term sentences, which was why it was imperative that plans for normal education and skill development be introduced. The report said this would allow for constructive use of their time, and said that demoralised prisoners can undergo psychological pressures.

A vocational school for women prisoners was established at the jail in 2001, but was closed down around three years ago. Presently there are no arrangements in place to provide the prisoners with vocational training.

The report also said that some juvenile prisoners had no contact with their families and were in prison due to non-prosecution. Most of the prisoners said they had been implicated in false cases. The report stated that most young prisoners were keen to continue their education.

During their interaction with senior jail officials, members of the committee found most of them dissatisfied with their service structure because they had been at the same prison for the last two decades. Most did not expect to be promoted before their retirement.

The report recommended that the government take note of the conditions facing jail officials, and offer promotions and a higher rate of pay. It also suggested bonuses and incentives for extra duty hours. The committee also found jail officials’ and employees’ accommodation in bad shape and lacking in steady maintenance.

The report added that inmates are not dressed in the prison uniform, which makes it difficult to distinguish them from visitors and makes the premises vulnerable to a security breach.

Published in Dawn, February 27th, 2016

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