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ISLAMABAD: Medical facilities including medicines and free legal support will be provided to women and juvenile prisoners, Federal Ombudsman Tahir Shahbaz said on Wednesday.

Mr Shahbaz was chairing a meeting on prison reforms at the Wafaqi Mohtasib Secretariat. The meeting was held to finalise the implementation of reforms in prisons with the help of Unicef, philanthropists and the civil society.

Participants of the meeting were briefed about findings of a need assessment survey of selected prisons nationwide, conducted by a Wafaqi Mohtasib team under the directions of the Supreme Court.

The apex court had directed the Ombudsman’s Office to address systemic failures that are the root cause of maladministration and formulate and enforce good standards of administration in prisons.

During the meeting, the federal ombudsman said Unicef had extended its partnership with the national commissioner for children to address the systemic issues pertaining to women and children in prisons.

The project titled ‘Rights of Children and Women Detainees in Pakistan’ was therefore conceived.

The purpose of the project is to facilitate juvenile and women detainees in crucial areas of need and give them skills so they can integrate themselves in society after being released.

The meeting was told that the project included visits to prisons in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, Punjab, Sindh and Balochistan to conduct a need assessment survey for reform interventions.

The survey was conducted under the supervision of Ombudsman Office Adviser Dr Rania Ahsan and the team included representatives from Allama Iqbal Open University, Numl and Comsats University.

Based on the survey, broad areas for intervention have been identified such as legal aid, establishment of legal desks in jails for juvenile and women detainees, socio-psycho support, correctional and psychiatry facilities, medical facilities, improvising the IT infrastructure to support these interventions and training facilities for prison staff.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2018