KARACHI: A recent survey carried out in District Jail Malir has found close connection between drugs and crime as it reveals most inmates have landed in the prison due to drug related offenses.
The survey further learnt that a majority of prisoners took to drugs at a young age under peer pressure, some just for fun and others to escape frustration and a significant number of these drug users were married and lived with their families before being arrested and sent to jail.
The survey conducted by Model Addiction Treatment and Rehabilitation Centre of the Anti-Narcotics Force in collaboration with Essa Lab, Karachi, aimed at assessing the number of prisoners who had used drugs at any stage of their life and reducing gap between their health needs and interventions.
A total of 530 interviews were conducted for the study
Drug use at young age
A total of 530 interviews were conducted for the study in which voluntary participation was ensured with strict adherence to confidentiality rules.
The survey found 92 per cent prisoners with substance abuse disorders. Of them, eight per cent were injecting drug users, 52 per cent were hooked to heroin, 17 per cent to crystal, one per cent to opium, five per cent to ice, eight per cent to synthetic forms of drugs and 15 per cent used cannabis. Foil use was found to be a popular mode to inhale smoke of drugs.
More than half of drug users aged between 21 and 30 years, 22 per cent between 31 and 35 years and 10 per cent were aged between 36 and 40 years. Forty-four per cent drug users were single, 55 per cent were married and the rest were either divorced or separated.
The majority was illiterate (54pc) and many engaged in menial jobs (30pc). Unemployment ratio was found to be at 28pc.
The majority had taken up drugs (60pc) under peer pressure, some for fun (20pc) and a significant number due to frustration (16pc).
Forty-one per cent took to drugs between 15 and 18 years of age whereas 23 per cent between 11 and 14 years. There were 14 per cent prisoners who began taking drugs when they were below 10 years, suggesting that they were raised in dysfunctional families. “Sixty-three per cent prisoners spent Rs100 to Rs500, 23 per cent spent Rs600 to Rs1000 and 8 per cent Rs1100 to Rs1500 on drugs daily,” the study says.
On the status of living before prison life, the survey found that 96 per cent lived with their families and the majority was in jail either because of drug abuse or their engagement in illicit drug business.
No drug rehab service
The study refers to the Sindh police report 2015 according to which there are around 20,000 inmates in 20 jails and prisoners’ centres across the province.
In Karachi, the Central Jail is the biggest prison in the city housing 8,000 inmates, though it has capacity to accommodate 4,000. Its hospital has (only) one psychiatrist, four medical officers and nine paramedics whereas the District Jail Malir with 5,000 inmates has two medical officers, four health department staff members and two paramedical staffers.
Seventy to 80pc prisoners in Malir jail, the reports says, are drug users who are being helped only with detoxification from limited resources at the disposal of the prison. The jail does not offer any drug rehabilitation service.
The other two prison centres in Karachi, women’s prison and Youthful Offender Industrial School, have ‘only dispensers and a midwife to assist in the medical needs of prisoners’.
The report recommends establishment of comprehensive evidence based drug detoxification and rehabilitation services in separate allocated spaces in Malir jail. Most men in prison are young, poor and illiterate and suffer from a variety of health conditions due to non-provision of primary healthcare facilities.
“Substandard prison conditions and the consequent stressors can negatively affect the mental health of prisoners or exacerbate pre-existing mental health problems,” says the survey.
Role of prison staff
The report finds that substance abuse prevalence in the prison is high and existing services for the management of drug dependence are highly deficient.
“A high number of imprisonments were due to drug related offences and a fair number of men reported addiction to drugs before being sent to the prison. This highlights the need for provision of drug dependence treatment options for prisoners with problematic drug use,” it says.
The report also notes that it is important to motivate and train the prison staff enough to bring about a positive change. “The prison staff has the most important role to play in providing a supportive and healthy environment, which ensures that harmful effects of imprisonment on the mental wellbeing of male prisoners are minimised.”
Every effort should be made to develop partnerships between higher prison authorities and the prison staff for every initiative undertaken, says the report.
Published in Dawn, June 24th, 2019