KARACHI: The provincial assembly was informed on Friday that the Karachi central prison was alarmingly overcrowded as the number of inmates was more than twice its designated capacity.

Furnishing a statement and giving replies to lawmakers’ questions, Prisons Minister Nasir Shah said that as many as 4,956 prisoners were lodged at the Karachi central prison, which had the designated capacity of only 2,400.

He said that the lodging capacity in the jail was being extended with the construction of 24 RCC cells with separate 20-foot-high RCC wall for housing high-profile inmates, including terrorists.

Minister says several measures have been taken to curb corruption in province’s jails

The minister said that almost 80 per cent work on the construction of a 20-foot-high bombproof wall had been completed.

Moreover, he said, construction of as many as 64 cells for condemned prisoners was in progress and 32 of them were completed.

Mr Shah said that the renovation of prisoners’ barracks, cells and prison hospital was also in progress.

2,356 in Hyderabad prison against capacity of 1,527

In reply to another question, the minister stated that the present designated capacity of the Hyderabad central prison was 1,527, whereas 2,356 prisoners were confined there as of Dec 13, 2018.

Giving further break-up, he said there were 955 undertrial prisoners and 1,382 convicts.

He said that work on the construction of 24 RCC cells with separate 20-foot RCC wall for keeping high-profile prisoners, including terrorists, was in progress.

In a written reply to a question asked by opposition member Arif Mustafa Jatoi, he stated that 35 foreign prisoners were confined in different penitentiaries in interior of Sindh.

The minister said that the foreigners were remanded to prisons by courts of different districts where their respective cases were pending disposal.

In reply to another question by Mr Jatoi, he said that 23 people were given jobs on a regular basis in the prisons department against the deceased quota between July 1, 2017 and Jan 30, 2018.

Giving break-up, he said that five people were appointed in BS-11, six in BS-9, one each in BS-6 and BS-4, and 10 people were appointed in BS-5.

In reply to another question asked by opposition MPA Arsalan Taj Hussain, the minister said that several efforts were being made for rehabilitation of jail inmates across the province by the prisons’ staff and different non-governmental organisations.

He said that rehabilitation programmes included Quran education, lessons up to secondary level, psychology classes, computer courses, carpentry, beautification courses, English language courses, hair cutting, fine arts, painting, drawing, indoor and outdoor games and educational facilities from Allama Iqbal Open University and different education boards of the province.

Efforts to curb corruption in jails

The minister further said that several measures had been taken to curb corruption in jails.

He said that any complaint against any jail official received from any corner was duly probed and a disciplinary action against the responsible staff was immediately initiated under the rules.

The minister said that all jail superintendents across the province had been directed to shuffle duties of staff posted inside the jails.

He said that officials, especially guarding staff, who had been posted in a prison for more than three years were transferred and posted to other prisons.

Mr Shah said that freshly cooked healthy meals were provided to the prisoners three times a day.

Responding to a question, asked by opposition member Nusrat Sehar Abbasi, the minister said that as many as 16 children were kept at the Karachi central prison along with their mothers, and seven others were in Hyderabad central prison.

He said that there were early learning centres (nursery school), play area and round-the-clock medical cover for the children being kept in the penitentiaries.

Published in Dawn, January 26th, 2019