80,145 are kept in prisons against capacity of 56,495, SC told

Published August 2, 2019
Apex court is seized with suo motu case about conditions of prisoners because of overcrowding. — Creative commons
Apex court is seized with suo motu case about conditions of prisoners because of overcrowding. — Creative commons

ISLAMABAD: The Federal Ombudsman has informed the Supreme Court that a total of 80,145 inmates are currently housed in 98 prisons of the four provinces against a sanctioned capacity of 56,495 — almost 42 per cent more than the capacity.

A report, submitted to the apex court on behalf of the Federal Ombudsman office through senior counsel Hafiz Ahsaan Ahmad Khokhar on Thursday, said that of the 80,145 inmates, 45,423 were detained in 42 jails in Punjab, 16,739 in Sindh, 15,969 in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and 2,014 in Balochistan. The report stated that these prisons had 1,135 juvenile prisoners as well as 24,280 convicts and 51,710 under-trial prisoners.

The Supreme Court is seized with a suo motu case about conditions of inmates in the country’s prisons due to overcrowding.

The hearing was initiated to consider and redress the plight and miseries of women prisoners detained in jails. The Federal Ombudsman had been tasked with making recommendations to improve conditions in prisons and redress the grievances of prisoners.

Apex court is seized with suo motu case about conditions of prisoners because of overcrowding

In the report, the ombudsman office stated that 785 female prisoners had been housed in 28 jails of Punjab and in all these jails, separate barracks/blocks for women prisoners had been constructed. Moreover, it said, female blocks were being supervised by female staff. In all jails, the female prisoners were facilitated with cot (charpoy) and washrooms, it added.

During the current financial year, the report highlighted, construction of five new prisons namely District Jail, Lodhran; High Security Prison, Mianwali; Sub-jail, Sumandari; Sub-jail, Pindi Bhattian; and Sub-jail, Gojra, having a combined capacity of accommodating 2,644 prisoners would be completed.

Likewise, in KP, the report said, construction of jails in three districts was in progress under the current annual development plan (ADP), while a jail in one district would be constructed under the next ADP.

About Islamabad, the report said the interior ministry had informed the ombudsman office that a 720-kanal land for the Islamabad Model Prison had been acquired in Sector H-16 and a PC-I for the construction of the prison had already been approved. The project would cost the national exchequer Rs3.9 billion.

So far, the report added, Rs1.1bn had been released and utilised, whereas work on the administration block, boundary wall, male barracks, etc, was under way. Expected date for completion of the project was June 30, 2020, it said.

About drug addicts, the report said that in Sindh drug addicts had been segregated from other prisoners. Besides, steps have also been taken for screening/treatment of TB, HIV, Hepatitis, AIDS and drug addict prisoners in coordination with NGOs.

Likewise, in Punjab, a drug addict barrack in each jail has been designated as the rehabilitation centre and 32,227 prisoners have been detoxified over the past five years.

Moreover, two 20-bed detoxification centres have been established in central jails of Lahore and Rawalpindi. A scheme of six-bed detoxification centres will be introduced in nine jails of Punjab.

Under the Rule 435 of Pakistan Prisons’ Rules, 1978, every mentally unsound prisoner is kept separate from other prisoners.

Prisoners suffering from mental illness had been shifted from other districts of Punjab to the Punjab Institute of Mental Health, Lahore, for treatment, the report said.

In KP, joint efforts will be made by the home, social welfare and health departments to carry out detoxification and treatment of addicts at a specific place. In all major cities, drug addict centres will be established by the social welfare/health departments.

In Balochistan, drug users and insane patients are at present kept in separate rooms inside a jail where basic medical treatment is being provided by the jail doctor, while on the request of the jail superintendent, a qualified psychiatrist also visits jails in cases where specialised treatment of any prisoner is required.

The report said that a letter had also been written to the health department for provision of 100 acres of land for establishment of a 600-bed multi-dimensional health care institute for neglected and mentally ill patients and research activities.

The report called for finalisation of the proposed amendments to the existing probation and parole laws and said that the home departments and inspectors general of prisons should expedite work on under-construction jails/sub-jails/judicial lockups, take steps for improving jails’ conditions and provide basic facilities in Bakhshi Khanas/judicial lockups.

Published in Dawn, August 2nd, 2019

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